Hey Congress: Wake the F*** Up! Another Russian Launch Just Failed

Another fine day for Russia's space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.
Another fine day for Russia’s space program. A Proton crashes with three GLONASS satellites.

Dear Congress:

Above is an image of a Russian Proton rocket crashing right after launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on Tuesday.

This is simply the latest launch failure to bedevil the increasingly decrepit Russian space program over the last couple of years.

The Russians also happen to provide the only access for our astronauts to the International Space Station. This is a situation you have extended by underfunding NASA’s commercial crew program. Your miserly attitude has delayed this program by years while saving little by sending hundreds of millions to the Russians for crew services.

So, please get your heads out of your asses and fully fund the commercial crew program before all this ineptitude ends up affecting a Soyuz mission. We could end up losing access to a station we’ve spent $100 billion on — or something much, much worse.

If much, much worse happens, the American people are going to be looking for someone to blame. And it’s going to be you.

I’m hoping and praying that since you guys hate getting blamed for anything, especially when you’re actually responsible for it, you’ll finally get it through your thick skulls that our continued reliance on the Russians is no longer tenable.

Do the right thing. You’ve exhausted all other options at this point.


Douglas M. Messier
Space Advocate

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  • koxinga

    Why do you think the Congressmen would be blamed? They will just convince themselves and others that it was someone else, namely the Russians who did a lousy job and the private companies whom they did provide the funding (doesn’t matter how much). The wonders of politics.

  • Byron Craig Russell

    With funding, the ECLIPSE 2-seater will be ready to go next year !

  • dr

    Dear Mr Bernanke,
    I understand that you are currently printing $85bn per month, and spending the money on government bonds. Please just give the money to NASA instead. Even if its just for one month. They could really do with the cash right now.
    In terms of economic impact, NASA will almost certainly spend the money in the US and so the money will directly benefit the US economy. The feel good factor that your bond purchases are intended to create would be replaced by NASA inspiring people with what they can do in space.

  • getitdoneinspace

    Well said Doug. May be this is the language needed to communicate with the stupid congress people we elect. But remember we elect them, I say sadly. A message to all voters, let us start voting for people with common sense and just put ideology aside.

  • Hug Doug

    we can only hope that congress will (as they should have done) increase funding for the Commercial Crew capabilities.

  • Douglas Messier

    What might happen is that Congress asks NASA about the safety of the Russian space program and what NASA is doing to try to ensure that nothing bad goes wrong, even though the agency has little direct input over how the Russians run their program.

    NASA will replies — accurately — that although there have been serious problems with reliability, most of them have related to systems used to launch satellites, not astronauts. They also point out that full commercial crew funding would hasten the day when we won’t have to rely on the Russians.

    If something really bad happens, there will be some in Congress who will use NASA’s assurances about the relative safety of Soyuz against it while ignoring all the other caveats and their own role in delaying commercial crew.

    The irony is rich here. The biggest concern Congress has had about commercial crew is safety of these private ventures. Meanwhile, the Russians have a record of launch failures in recent years that hasn’t been seen since the early days of the Space Age. And yet they seem largely unconcerned.

  • mzungu

    I seem to remember that the stuff NASA build, blew up just the same. Wake up, Soyuz is not Proton, and Soyuz is still far safer.

  • Douglas Messier

    That’s true. Soyuz is a safer and more reliable system than the Proton. And NASA has experienced launch failures, as have all space agencies.

    I would point out, however, that Russia lost a Soyuz rocket last year and the Progress freighter it was carrying. The Russian space program has deep, systemic problems involving worn out equipment, an aging workforce, a lack of replacement workers, a dysfunctional quality control system, and rampant corruption.

    It makes no sense that the world’s massive investment in ISS is dependent entirely upon one crew system. Or that Congress prefers to underfund our own program while sending hundreds of millions to the Russians for a service American companies can easily provide.

  • delphinus100

    You mean that part of it that doesn’t get sucked into SLS…?

  • Excellent point.

    Bob Clark

  • mzungu

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with relying on just one single crew system,. ISS was originally designed to be service just by the shuttles.

    Reliability and safety of a launch system comes with the vehicle’s maturity, launchers generally gets more reliable and cheaper as you build more of them, and iron out all the bugs. I don’t see that as cost effective when it comes to the ISS, specially with the ISS design life coming to an end.

    The habit of having NASA/industry had been building a new launch vehicle instead of refining and heritage product is just a waste of my tax dollars.

  • Douglas Messier

    The original plan was to have Space Station Freedom serviced only by shuttle. After it was reborn as ISS, Russian spacecraft and rockets were added in to the mix. There’s now a mixed fleet of Russian, American, European and Japanese spacecraft supplying cargo services.

    The idea of relying only on the space shuttle was deeply flawed because the shuttles tended to fail catastrophically (2/5, or 40 percent of the fleet) and replacing them was extremely expensive. There were 2 1/2 year gaps in flights after each shuttle loss. When Columbia was lost, the gap had a major impact on ISS operations and construction schedule despite having access to Russian vehicles.

    The station may well be extended beyond 2020. Even if it isn’t, reliance on one system for crew makes no sense.

    Two of the three commercial crew vehicles under development are designed to fly on Atlas V, which is an extremely reliable booster. The other vehicle — which has already flown to ISS unmanned several times — is flying on a relatively new booster.

  • mzungu

    A reliable Atlas V does not mean that Boeing CST(not flown, not test) or that of the Dream Chaser(not flown, not test also) is safe. the F9 and Dragon combo is still working out all the bugs on the launcher and the capsule(and was never yet crewed) , far from the maturity of over 40 years, and 100+ flights of the Soyuz. Just because it is new don’t mean it is safe. and adding untested option won’t make it safer either, these things takes time…

  • Douglas Messier

    The fact that these haven’t flown yet doesn’t support your original claim that we should continue to rely on a single system to access a space station we have put $100 billion investment into.

  • mzungu

    Why stop at 2? why not 3? or 4 different systems? …. We are only sending 4 Americans up to the ISS a year, with so few in number, why bother reinventing a new wheel. there is no new technology in these Reentry Vehicles, I can think of a few way that money are better spend elsewhere, probes to Titan, a few more to Mars….

  • Douglas Messier

    The reason we’re not sending more astronauts up to ISS is our reliance on the three-seat Russian Soyuz. We could send a lot more if we had our own transportation. Witness the shuttle era. That would allow us to make much better use of our $100 billion investment in the station.

    The aim isn’t just to visit ISS but to enable private space stations like Bigelow and others. That’s why competition is key.

  • mzungu

    Think there is limited seating on the ISS, increasing the number of crew needs a lot more than a capsule. I doubt it’ll increase much scientific output. I doubt anyone can point out what useful scientific output the ISS had outputted in the last 12 years… May I point out as well that there is really no real “private” space business(yet), Bigelow, SpaceX, Orbital…..they are all currently living off NASA contracts. What ever science comes out of ISS is prob only useful if we do have some type long term plan to go to the Moon or Mars, as of this moment, it is money down the drain, because what ever we learn today, it’ll be lost again when this generation of aerospace engineer retires anyway.

  • Douglas Messier

    ISS was designed for 7 crew members. It has 6 due to the limitations of Soyuz. An additional member of the crew would allow for more time devoted to research. And the additional crew member can be supported through cargo vehicles.

    The is all in the OIG report that was released on Monday.

    They’ve developed a vaccine for botulism from ISS research. More things like that are possible.

  • mzungu

    Where is this so call botulism vaccine? no Google results.

  • Douglas Messier

    My bad. It’s Salmonella, actually.

  • mzungu

    And there is no vaccine, so… I still don’t know what kind of scientific break through have be achieved. I can’t recall what came out of Mir, or Skylab either… Don’t say Tang. 😀 I still believe what we learn in space is only good for use space….Only we are not going to Mars or the Moon anytime soon.