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Ukraine Conflict Puts US Space Explorations in Jeopardy

Former NASA boss says Russia is holding the US space program hostage.

Astronaut Catherine Coleman

It was 45 years ago yesterday, when the world watched Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind, ” as the first humans to walk on the moon, July 20, 1969.

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Today, after the retirement of its Space Shuttle program, NASA has to stand in line like everybody else, and pay for space aboard Russian rockets that ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Political tensions between the US and Russia over events in the Ukraine appear to put in doubt even that undignified option. Retaliating for American sanctions, Russian officials say they will not continue to assist US space efforts.

“We’re in a hostage situation, ” former NASA administrator Michael Griffin told ABC News. “Russia can decide that no more US astronauts will launch to the International Space Station and that’s not a position that I want our nation to be in.”

Three private companies: Boeing, Space-Ex and Sierra Nevada, are competing for billions of dollars in what’s left of NASA’s funding, to build the next vehicle to take American astronauts to space.

NASA wants to announce the winner by 2017. Buzz Aldrin wants this to be a step on the way of getting Americans back to the moon and beyond.

“We don’t have to repeat what we did 45 years ago, but we don’t ignore the moon. It’s very important for technology, commerce, science, ” Aldrin insisted.

Astronaut Catherine Coleman told ABC News: “Forty-five years ago, humanity’s first steps on the moon taught us what we as a society can accomplish for all mankind when we focus on a common goal: Living on the space station, landing on an asteroid, eventually sending humans to Mars. We are meant to explore our universe.”

Coleman feels these explorations make a noble national goal, which could mean the Russian push back may be just the thing Americans need to kick their beloved space program back to life, budget cuts be damned.

“It’s time for our next ‘great leap, ‘” Coleman said.



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