Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ISS Crew Changeover and a Space Tourist

Space Tourist Richard Garriott paid 30 million
dollars for his 10-day space journey

A Russian Soyuz capsule carrying space tourist Richard Garriott, and Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and US astronaut Michael Fincke, has docked at the International space station. From The Associated Press:

Russian spacecraft docks with orbital station
KOROLYOV, Russia - An American computer game designer boarded the international space station Tuesday, floating onto the orbital outpost 35 years after his astronaut father circled the Earth on Skylab.

Richard Garriott was greeted by another man who has turned space flight into a family tradition: Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov, whose father is a decorated veteran of the Soviet space program.


Garriott, 47, paid a reported US$30 million to fulfill his childhood dream of space travel. Growing up steeped in space flight, his determination was only strengthened when he was told his poor eyesight would prevent him from becoming a NASA astronaut like his father.


Long rivals in the Cold War space race, Washington and Moscow often point to the space program as an example of cooperation in their otherwise difficult relationship, which reached a low point in August when Russia defeated Georgia, a U.S. ally, in a brief war.

During their stint, Fincke and Lonchakov will work to expand the capacity of the station to host a crew of six — up from three — with additional sleep spaces, a second toilet and an exercise machine. Their crewmate Greg Chamioff will be replaced by another U.S. astronaut, Sandra Magnus, who is scheduled to arrive on a space shuttle in November along with equipment for the expansion.

Sounds like it's business as usual, despite international tensions over the Russia/Georgia conflict. Can the Russia/America cooperation continue, without letting politics interfere? It seems they are determined to do just that.

From DailyTech.com:

Russia Space Director Talks Russia-U.S. Business Deal
Even though political tensions between the United States and Russia remain strained and global economic problems are causing credit crunches, space exploration will take place as scheduled, the head of Russia's space agency said over the weekend.

Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov understands that in two short years the Soyuz space capsule will be the only transportation for astronauts to reach the International Space Station (ISS) until 2014 or 2015. Russia will need to assist the U.S. to get both astronauts and supplies to the ISS, and the ISS crew could be expanded from three people to six, which would add pressure to Russia.

"Cooperation is first and foremost international and it cannot be said that space has any boundaries," Perminov said during the press conference. [...]

The US Congress has made it legal for NASA to purchase seats aboard future Soyuz launches, despite political obstacles. Read the whole thing for more details.

I wonder if they can stay on course with this. The Orion project, our new spacecraft to replace our aging shuttle fleet, could be delayed beyond it's 2015 target date. The multi-billion dollar bailout for banks could affect NASA funding. For now it looks like plans have not changed. Russia needs the money as much as we need them to supply us with Soyuz spacecraft. We shall see as time goes along, if the arrangement, and our space budget, will hold up.

Related Links:

NASA, Russia, and The Space Travel Dilemma

Discovery Returns, Mission Accomplished

NASA goes Back to the Future

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