July 4, 2011
NASA Dependence On Russia Looming
The U.S. is closing in on a new era in space exploration as its reliance on its shuttle program comes to an end and dependence on Russia for transportation reaches an all-time high.
On July 8th, space shuttle Atlantis will usher out the shuttle program with its final launch.
The space agency will begin relying on Russia for access to the International Space Station until private companies being picking up the slack the shuttle program will leave behind.
The U.S. will be paying $51 million per seat to use Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, and NASA has said it could be waiting for a new U.S.-based transportation until between the years 2015 and 2020.
Atlantis' final mission will mark the 135th for the shuttle program, which is an era that began on April 12, 1981.
During the lifetime of the program, the Columbia and Challenger shuttles met their end while on a mission, taking the lives of 14 astronauts with them.
According to Brevard Workforce and a report in the Herald Tribune, the shuttle retirement will eliminate 9,000 direct jobs, with an additional 14,000 layoffs forecast for the service-industry sector.
The five space shuttles used during the program have logged 537,114,061 miles, which is roughly similar to traveling from the Earth to the Sun and back three times.
Atlantis will bring a year's worth of supplies with it to the ISS, which NASA said would be enough to keep the station running if private companies fall behind in efforts to launch their own cargo ships.
Launch Complex 39 in John F. Kennedy Space Center has seen its fair share of launches, but on top of the overwhelming sound of engine rushing into space on Friday, it will also get to experience the roar of the estimated 500,000 to 750,000 people cheering on Atlantis' final voyage.
Image Caption: Backdropped by a blue and white Earth, this close-up view features the Soyuz TMA-6 spacecraft approaching the International Space Station (ISS). Credit: NASA
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