The International Space Station’s Desperate Careen Toward Privatization

Soyuz TMA-18 launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan in April, 2010. Public domain NASA image.

As you probably know, the US Space Shuttle program will call it quits next summer with STS-135, planned for June, 2011. However, the US space program isn’t calling it quits at that time; NASA plans to continue sending astronauts and materiel to the International Space Station using commercial carriers. The ISS is expected to remain in operation until at least 2015 and probably 2020; NASA plans to save US taxpayers about a gajillion dollars using private contractors, which is roughly the amount Dick Cheney planned to save by using Blackwater to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Wait, did I say that out loud? Sorry, sorry, let me take off my snarky left wing fart-sniffer acey-deucey off and don my credulous space-nerd propeller beanie that celebrates all things post-terrestrial.

There; that’s so much better. What I meant to say, of course, is that NASA is privatizing its journeys to the ISS because that’s the best way to encourage scientific and engineering innovation.

The problem? Those commercial carriers don’t exist yet. Until they do, NASA’s going to have to keep sending Americans skyward on Russian Soyuz rockets. That costs tens of millions of dollars per person.



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