NASA notified Congress August 5 that it is renewing a contract with Russia to fly astronauts to the International Space Station for the next two years, at a cost of nearly a half billion dollars to the United States.
The U.S. space agency's chief Charles Bolden said he was forced to extend the contract because of budget cuts that delayed efforts to revive a U.S. human flight program.
The deal to pay Moscow more than $80 million per Soyuz rocket seat, up from $71 million per seat under the previous contract,comes at a time when Washington is ratcheting up sanctions against Russia in response to its aggressive moves in Ukraine.
U.S. reliance on Russia for transporting crew to the station contrasts sharply with Congress' ban on imports of Russian rocket engines for U.S. military satellite launches.
NASA expects that eventually, private U.S. companies like Space X and Boeing will develop rockets and capsules that are able to carry astronauts from the United States into space.