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NASA turns to Russia after Congress failure

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In this NASA handout photo taken during the Gemini 4 mission on June 3, 1965, Ed White became the first American to conduct a spacewalk.

NASA says it is signing a $490-million contract with Russia to fund a program that aims to send Americans to space.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration told American lawmakers in a letter on Wednesday that the move was a result of the Congress failure to fund the Commercial Crew Program, The Hill reported.

Based on the new contract, which will run through 2019, NASA would be dependent on Moscow for the program despite tensions between the United States and Russia over the situation in Ukraine.

The letter, written by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr., warned of missing a 2017 deadline to send astronauts to space on vehicles manufactured by Boeing and SpaceX.

“The fastest path to bringing these new systems online, launching from America, and ending our sole reliance on Russia is fully funding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in FY 2016,” Bolden wrote in the letter to Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), who is in charge of supervising NASA funding in the House.

Congress will need to back President Barack Obama’s $1.24 billion budget request for the program in order to meet the deadline, Bolden said.

This June 28, 2015 grab from NASA TV shows the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the unmanned Dragon cargo capsule on board appearing to explode shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The lack of funding appeared to have emerged in the backdrop of a row between the US dominant parties.

House Republicans have proposed $250 million less than the request for the next fiscal year, while Senate Republicans have offered $300 million less.

Boeing and SpaceX would most likely have to suspend operations next spring or summer if the budget is not approved, Bolden added.

Obama’s budget requests for the years 2011 and 2012 had also been truncated by Congress.

Commercial vehicles would be functional by 2017 if the program is fully funded, according to an unnamed spokeswoman for NASA.

“At this point, because of the lack of funding, our commercial partners will likely not be ready by 2017,” she said.


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