The Congress, in its shortsighted manner, has cut the Commercial Crew Development budget for NASA from $850 million to $406 million for Fiscal Year 2012. The result is that NASA will likely push back the scheduled launch of commercial manned spacecraft from SpaceX (Dragon), Orbital (Cygnus) or Boeing (CST-100) by two to three years.
Currently, America is paying, and will pay Russia around $450 million per year to transport American astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The additional two to three years translates to between $900 million and $1,300 million in additional cost to NASA in future years in order to save $444 million next year. Net loss to NASA and America is $456 million or more.
In the meantime, Congress appropriated several Billion dollars per year for a giant rocket that NASA did not request, and for which Congress has failed to appropriate any money for payloads to fly on the giant rocket.
Given Russia’s recent failures with the Soyuz rocket and the haste with which the doomed Fobos-Grunt mission to Mars was assembled, improperly tested and launched, America may want to consider shifting funds from the giant rocket no one wants (except the politicians in Florida, Utah and Alabama) to the Commercial Crew program, which everyone wants in order to get out from under the world’s sole reliance on Russia to support the ISS.