Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) and Space Subcommittee Vice Chairman Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) today sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden requesting additional information after press reports highlighted comments by Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, in which he announced a series of measures in response to U.S. sanctions. Specifically, Mr. Rogozin said that Russia intends to reject a U.S. request to prolong the use of the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2020. Mr. Rogozin also suggested that Russia could use the ISS without the United States.
"Our international space partnerships, including our partnership with Russia, have historically endured political division," the Congressmen wrote. "But Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin's statements raise serious concerns about the strength of those partnerships."
With the retirement of the Space Shuttle and the cancellation of the Constellation program, the United States currently has no domestic capability to transport our astronauts to and from the ISS.
"As we move forward, it is important that we fully understand our nation's independent capabilities with regard to ISS operations," the letter states. "While this new development is not related to access to the ISS for our astronauts in the next few years, it certainly pertains to the strength of our partnership with Russia. If Mr. Rogozin's statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners."
To better understand the potential implications of these comments, the Congressmen request a briefing from NASA on the current state of international negotiations related to the proposed extension of the ISS beyond 2020. They also request a list of all critical components, services, or capabilities that Russia provides that are necessary for the continued operation of the ISS beyond 2020.
The full letter can be found here.