U.S.-Russia Intergalactic Tug Of War Brewing

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June 17 (Bloomberg) –- Commercial Spaceflight Federation President Michael Lopez-Alegria discusses tensions between the U.S. and Russia spilling over into the American space program. He speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Tensions between russia and the u.s. have spilled over to the space program.

The u.s. relies on russia's rockets to send astronauts to the national space station.

Russia says it will stop taking american astronauts with them by the end of the decade.

The deck area -- the deputy prime minister tweeted "i suggest the u.s. bring astronauts to the iss using a trampoline." let's get to it with michael, he runs the commercial spaceflight federation, a private industry group.

He is a former astronaut.

How seriously do we take these words from russia?

They are going to be losing $70 million per seat.

It could be a big deal.

The comments of the deputy prime minister are a little bit of a loose cannon.

My colleagues back at nasa are enclose -- are in close touch with the russian space agency, they claim all is good at the working level.

Sometimes politics get in the way.

I would be surprised if this threat materializes.

It ramps up the pressure on the u.s. to create its own way to get astronauts into space.

That will rely on the private company level.

Right, nasa has a solution, which is called a commercial crew program.

They are funding three competitors to produce vehicles that will take our astronauts to the international space station.

Thus relieving ourselves of the pending on the russians.

How competitive is that going to be?

My understanding is that richard shelby has introduced a bill that on the surface appears to favor boeing in that contest.

That's an interesting interpretation.

The bill is the appropriations.

They are funding it at a high-level, much higher than in the past on the senate side.

Still a little bit below the budget request but a very positive sign.

Probably due in part to the saber rattling going on over in moscow.

The language you are referring to does ask for some pretty onerous restrictions on the competition for the nasa contract.

Then we as a federation think that is a bad idea.

Not just for the companies we represent, but more important for the american taxpayer.

Who do the restrictions favor?

The restriction is to do with a call for us accounting.

They favor companies that have mechanisms in place to produce that kind of information.

Of the three companies you mentioned, boeing, spacex, and sierra nevada, boeing is best equipped.

They have thousands of government contracts.

Spacex and sierra nevada do not have the army in place to do the calculations.

It sounds as though it does favor boeing.

I think the most generous way i can describe the senators language, he is attempting to provide for greater transparency.

That is a very shortsighted solution.

What will end up happening is the current contract does not reflect that idea.

If the language is adopted, at the very least, any contract awarded will have to be renegotiated.

At the worst, if the language is adopted before those contracts are awarded, they will have to reissue the request for proposals.

Which is a huge delay.

As we pointed out, that is not good.

Regardless of who is favored, at the end of the day, what is the relationship in russia?

Seems like boeing and sierra nevada are still dependent on russian supplies to make their products, isn't that a bigger issue?

That is a big issue.

The russians have said they do not want to sell a particular engine to us, the rd180. for military purposes.

The commercial crew program would not be military use.

The engine price would go up if they are selling fewer of them.

That could be problematic as well.

From your perspective, is america better off looking at space as a contest with the russians and possibly the chinese, or a collaboration with other nations?

I spent a lot of time on the international space station, which is a collaborative effort with -- not in the least case -- the russians.

I think that is a better way to go than to have a redo of star wars or the space race of the 1960's. it is always smart to hedge your bets and have your own organic capability.

Particularly for a country in a space agency like nasa.

That has such a rich history.

It is a shame we are in the position we are in.

My answer would be a little bit of both.

I like the collaborative idea but i think we should also have our own capability wherever possible.

Competition, yes, the space race of the 1950's and 60's seem antiquated.

But there was competition.

Competition drives people to do interesting and technologically marvelous things.

Yeah, i cannot argue with that sentiment.

Back in the day, nasa had about 4.5% of the domestic budget.

Today we have less than .5%. that is a dramatic change.

Part of it is given by the fact that we do not have a that guy out there we are worried about.

That is not really a great way to live life.

It would be better to have a robust space program with a healthier budget without worrying about what is going on overhead with sputnik or the like.

At what point do you think the u.s. has independent in its space program?

I do not see us breaking off ever.

The future of human space exploration is international.

There's no doubt about it.

The question is who is going to be in that partnership and how it is mechanized.

I think we want to establish our own independence because geopolitical things happen and you want that possibility.

You don't want to be held hostage, it seems like we're in that position today.

I am advocating a dual path here.

Give us a sense of what the kind of distant future holds in store, beyond getting people up to the international space station.

How long is it going to take before we send humans into outer space to do something else?

That's a great question.

The white house has a plan to send some folks to near-earth asteroid, something they want to capture and bring into lunar orbit.

Then send people to check it out.

There is some political debate about whether that is the right estimation.

What is clear, low earth orbit is becoming a place we can establish a commercial footprint.

Right now, it is cargo to the iss, soon it will be people.

Not long after, we might have commercial destinations in low or the orbit where we can send people, companies interested in doing research.

A before and entities -- maybe foreign entities.

Or a hotel like environment one day.

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.

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