Chair Force Engineer

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Intolerable Gap

As I'm typing this entry, Russia is invading the sovereign, democratic nation of Georgia. This brazen act of war should be offensive to the shared values of the American people. The US government should be using all elements of the nation's soft power to force Russia's retreat from Georgia.

Throughout the course of the space age, spaceflight programs have been viewed as a form of soft power for spacefairing nations. It logically follows that the US should be using space as a means of compelling a Russian withdrawal from Georgia. The easiest way to do so would be to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station until the Russians went to the peace table. But that's much easier said than done. A mixed Russian-American crew is currently aboard the station, with no way of evacuating the American contingient without getting the Russians involved.

Regardless of how long the Georgia crisis drags on, it represents a disturbing long-term trend. As long as the Putin regime is running the show in Russia, that nation will continue to intimidate and coerce former Soviet clients and breakaway republics to prevent them from forming close ties with the US and western Europe. As long as this status-quo remains true, America cannot in good conscience cooperate with the Russians in space endeavors or purchase Soyuz spacecraft under an exemption to the Iran Nonproliferation Act.

The Space Shuttle's imminent retirement and the wait until 2015 until the first crewed Orion mission should give America reason to pause. Its astronauts will be hostage to a mafia-run bully-state for at least five years. This frightening reality should make Congress, the President, and NASA more willing to consider accelerating the SpaceX Dragon program, flying Orion on a Delta IV or DIRECT, or even extending the shuttle program. As a last resort, American astronauts can stay grounded, as they did during the 1975-81 gap. But the alternative of sponsoring a rogue hegemon like Russia should be morally repugnant.

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