With the retirement of a space shuttle in 2011, the United States had to rely on the Russian Federation to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station. However, Senate Appropriations Committee has approved $500 million to support NASA initiatives to restore the US astronaut launching facilities.
The money will form part of the NASA’s 2012 budget and will specifically support astronaut launches through the Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev).
The CEO of one company to benefit from the decision, Elon Musk of SpaceX, used uncharacteristically nationalistic language to justify the spending, poking at the sore point of a failed Russian rocket launch in August 2011, which was scheduled to re-stock the ISS with food and supplies :
“The investments made by this legislation will accelerate efforts to return America to launching astronauts and reduce our dependency on Russia. With the failure of the Soyuz booster last month, this effort is more important than ever.
“NASA’s Commercial Crew Development Program is the most fiscally responsible means to rapidly advance human spaceflight. It has protected taxpayer dollars with fixed-price, pay-for-performance contracts. It fosters competition that forces companies to compete on reliability, capability and cost. And it leverages private investment – making taxpayer dollars go further.
“SpaceX applauds Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Hutchison and the Members of the Subcommittee for recognizing the value of the program. With the support of Congress, American companies will soon be able to end the flow of tax dollars to Russia and instead invest in high-tech American jobs.”
Despite the unifying mission of the International Space Station, it seems that national competition still plays an important part in driving budgets for space technology.