Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

U.S. Astronauts Have to Hitch a Ride

Americans took pride in beating the Russians to the moon during the long-ago space race. Now we're lucky if they let us ride shotgun aboard their Soyuz spacecraft. The mothballing of the shuttles meant NASA's astronauts would have to be hitching rides with the Russians for however many years it takes the U.S. to get its next-generation spacecraft built. But when an unmanned Soyuz sent up on a resupply run crashed in August, it looked as if both countries might be grounded — and the International Space Station might have to be abandoned until things could be sorted out. The fact that the problem got fixed and milk runs to the station resumed put that worry on hold — but hardly addressed it completely. With the U.S. unlikely to have a new crew-worthy vehicle available until 2016 at the earliest, a permanent solution is still years away.