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Cold War II makes space colder

April 3, 2014 - Paul Giannamore
In the 1980s movie version of “2010: Odyssey Two” by Arthur C. Clarke, (“2010: The Year We Make Contact”) there’s a bit of tension about the Americans being aboard a Soviet spaceship bound for Jupiter, done because the Soviet Union had developed an advanced drive system before the U.S. did.

At some point in the movie, I recall an announcement by the NASA and USSR space chiefs to their respective crews about tensions on Earth causing ties to sever. The crews were stuck with one another out in space but had been ordered not to interact unless it was an emergency.

The same thing is becoming reality, just like Archie Bunker’s crazy rants are now considered something that actual policy should be based upon. Hollywood as prophet. Huh.

NASA on Wednesday said all ties with the Russian space program were being severed because of the tensions over Ukraine.

The story doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. Apparently we’re back to a no flames, nothing worthy in space form of news coverage that settles in every few years.

Something predicated the change that probably was beyond NASA, and maybe the Russian space agency’s offices.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden repeatedly said relations would be normal between the two agencies when asked in March, including after Vlad the Restorer annexed Crimea.

NASA made the announcement on Wednesday when a memo was leaked, swiping at Congress in noting that the U.S. space program wouldn’t need to rely on Russia to get to the International Space Station if funding hadn’t been cut. As it is, the American program is waiting for the private-owned SpaceX Dragon capsule to get into service, still a few years hence.

That is, of course, if there’s still an ISS to go to. At some point, some bright budget-cutting anti-Soviet hawk in the Senate will gain traction and kill off funding for the American portion of the orbiting laboratory, the lone manned space project still involving American government employees.

The new ban means NASA employees cannot travel to Russia nor exchange e-mails with their counterparts. That, of course, means science gets hampered by politics.

Of course, some bright analysts said NASA didn’t cut off access to the space station, so it survives and that’s good, but the punditocracy fails to consider that maybe Vlad will want the whole station for the glory of Mother Russia. Has to happen eventually if this whole restore-the-Soviet-Union vibe is carried through.

Trouble is, can either nation afford a Race to Mars in the future?

If old Hollywood really predicted reality, if we're really lucky, the Vulcans are about to step in and tell us to grow up.


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