Russian rocket carries U.S. astronaut for pay

Russian space agency rescue team members carry U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit shortly after the landing of the Russian Soyuz TMA-03M space capsule, about 75 miles southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on July 1, 2012.

Jeremey Hobson: Well there's a spaceship somewhere between earth and the International Space Station right now. It's got a NASA astronaut on it -- but it was launched from Kazakhstan on a Russian rocket. NASA has been paying Russia to get astronauts into space since retiring the shuttle.

For more, we're joined by Abduzhalil Abdurasulov, who's with the BBC in Kazakhstan. Good morning.

Abduzhalil Abdurasulov: Good morning.

Hobson: Well, describe the launch site and tell us what it’s like there.

Abdurasulov: It’s a very surreal place imagine a vast, vast Kazakh steppe in the middle of nowhere, it’s vast emptiness basically, and right in the middle you can see a tiny, small rocket, and everybody else -- all the observers -- they have to stand quite far from the launching site, maybe about 4 kilometers away on wooden benches and some concrete platforms. So, that’s the view of the launching site.

Hobson: And you know, from the American perspective, this whole deal is a little embarrassing probably, that we have to rely on Russian rockets to get our astronauts into space. What’s the view from the Russian point of view?

Abdurasulov: Well, the Russians, the Roscosmos -- the Russian space agency -- is certainly proud; the only agency that is able to launch the flights, the manned flights. If you look at it -- it’s actually quite impressive -- the actual rocket and the capsule as well were designed in the 1960’s, and they’re still the most reliable vehicles today. But I think in a few years time maybe in the near future, there will be private companies as well who will be able to send humans to space, including to the ISS as well because just recently a private company, Space X, managed to send a cargo vessel to the ISS. So that’s a first step, maybe for the private manned flights.

Hobson: But for now, of course, we’re using the Russian rockets to get NASA astronauts into space, what are we paying them for that privilege?

Abdurasulov: At the moment NASA is paying about $51 million per astronaut. But in a few years time, starting in 2014, NASA will pay about $63 million per seat and in total they will pay about $750 million for 12 round trips.

Hobson: Abduzhalil Abdurasulov joining us from Kazakhstan. Thank you so much.

Abdurasulov: Thank you.

About the author

Jeremy Hobson is host of Marketplace Morning Report, where he looks at business news from a global perspective to prepare listeners for the day ahead.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...