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Georgia conflict could deny NASA flights to ISS

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NEW YORK (BNS): The worsening US-Russia relations over the conflict in Georgia could shut down NASA's manned space missions for a long time, several US law makers have warned.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, the chairwoman of the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Sub Committee which oversees the NASA funding, in a statement called on the Bush administration to find a bipartisan solution to the coming trouble. She said the impact of the Russia-Georgia conflict on the International Space Station (ISS) was a "critical issue."

From 2010 until at least 2015, NASA is fully dependent on Russia for sending its astronauts to the ISS. NASA retires its space shuttle in 2010, and the Orion crew vehicle would be ready only by 2015. Russia's Soyuz will be the only means available to the mankind during these five years to reach the ISS.

Senator Bill Nelson of Florida on Wednesday said he was concerned about the impact of the deteriorating Russia-US relations over the Georgia conflict. Nelson said he was worried about "Russia denying us rides or charging exorbitant amounts for them." Nelson said, "We don't want to deny ourselves access to the space station, the very place we have built and paid."

The law makes and analysts have pointed out that if the US-Russian relations worsen, then it is impossible for American astronauts to take Soyuz flight. The NASA's Soyuz arrangement is possible because of a special waiver given by the US Congress for NASA from the Iran-North Korea-Syria Non-Proliferation Act. American entities are not to do business with countries that deal with Iran and Syria in nuclear matters, and Russia has supplied nuclear reactors to Iran. The exemption for NASA will expire in 2011, and the Congress can choose not to extend it further.

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