(Space.com) McCain, joined by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and David Vitter (R-La.), also cited Russia's recent military incursion into neighboring Georgia earlier this month as evidence that Russia's continued cooperation on the international space station program should not be taken for granted.
Once the space shuttle is retired, Russia stands to possess the only means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station until the shuttle's successor – the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and Ares 1 launcher – comes on line around 2015. [...]
McCain, Hutchison and Vitter, in their letter to Bush, wrote that Russia's actions "raised new questions about the wisdom of providing" the exemption the White House seeks from a provision in the Iran, North Korea, Syria Non-proliferation Act barring so-called extraordinary payments to the Russian space program so long as Russia continues to help Iran acquire missiles and other advanced weapons.
While Senator McCain's rival for the White House, Senator Obama has proposed an alternative solution (basically giving NASA an extra $2 billion), neither solution will help NASA as the agency lacks the funds to continue shuttle flights and finish the constellation program.
NASA is (understandably) tired of circling the globe while dreaming of the stars beyond our home world.
With firm plans to establish a lunar base (which will hopefully turn into a lunar colony), it would be better for NASA to allow the private sector (aka NewSpace) to replace Russia in ferrying astronauts, thus freeing up NASA to help humanity establish settlements off world.
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