WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Congressman Nick Lampson introduced a bill to allow NASA to purchase additional Russian Soyuz and Progress vehicles if the President notifies Congress that they are needed to ensure the safety of the crew aboard the International Space Station and to maintain its operational viability while the Space Shuttle fleet is grounded.
"It is clear that we are now very dependent on the Russian space program as the sole means of support for the Space Station until the shuttle fleet returns to service," said Lampson.
The Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000 as enacted would appear to be an obstacle to NASA’s ability to make payments to Russia to cover the costs of purchasing additional Soyuz and Progress vehicles.
"We need to ensure that the International Space Station remains up and running during this difficult time. When we lost the Space Shuttle challenger 17 years ago, the Shuttle fleet was grounded for 32 months. In the aftermath of the Columbia accident, it may be impossible to maintain the Space Station's operational viability even beyond this June without help from the Russians. If the President declares the need to purchase Soyuz and Progress vehicles during the suspension of Shuttle flights, my legislation would give NASA the flexibility to purchase them," added Lampson.
"The safety of our astronauts should be paramount. NASA should not be prevented from doing whatever is necessary to ensure that safety is maintained," he concluded.