The price tag to send an astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS) just got a little more expensive for the United States.
NASA reported on Tuesday (April 30) that in a renewed contract with Russia, that the U.S. will have to pay to the Russian Federal Space Agency, $70.6 million per astronaut launched on round trips to the ISS in 2016 and 2017.
NASA has not had the ability to send astronauts to the ISS since the space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011. There are already plans in the works to send six U.S. astronauts to the space station at a total price tag of $424 million in the next three to four years.
The cost is about a 10 percent jump or $8 million dollar increase from the $63 million per seat price NASA paid in May 2011 and the agency blames Congress.
Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator, said in a blog that Congress failed to provide full funding President Obama requested for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
“If NASA had received the President’s requested funding for this plan, we would not have been forced to recently sign a new contract with Roscosmos for Soyuz transportation flights,” Bolden said.
NASA had hoped to begin launching U.S. and partner nation astronauts on spaceships being designed and developed by U.S. commercial companies but those projects have been delayed until at least 2017 due to budget cuts.
“While our Russian counterparts have been good partners, it is unacceptable that we don’t currently have an American capability to launch our own astronauts,” Bolden said
“Because the funding for the President’s plan has been significantly reduced, we now won’t be able to support American launches until 2017,” he added.
Bolden called upon Congress to approve President Obama’s budget request of $821 million for NASA’s commercial crew program or risk further delays in getting NASA astronauts off the ground on American-made spacecraft, which is a $300 million increase from funding approved in fiscal year 2013, but closer to the $850 million NASA originally asked for.
SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada are currently developing commercial spacecraft with NASA seed money.
NASA is investing in the development of the private spacecraft, and then will procure seats on those craft once they are flying.
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