After Last Shuttle Lifts Off, Russia Owns Space

Moscow will have a monopoly on flights to ISS for years

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 7, 2011 2:42 PM CDT

(Newser) – After the last US space shuttle flight blasts off tomorrow, Russia will officially have a monopoly on outer space. The 40-year-old Soyuz capsule will be the only vessel capable of reaching the International Space Station, and Russia can charge dearly for rides, the Wall Street Journal reports. “We are not in a very comfortable situation, and when I say uncomfortable, that is a euphemism,” says the director of the European Space Agency. “We made a collective mistake.”

Already, Russia has increased its asking price 175% since George W. Bush announced the end of the shuttle program in 2004—and it’ll rise again later this summer, to $43.4 million per seat. NASA officials are hoping private companies will eventually fill the shuttle gap, but they’re not holding their breath. The companies “will take a little longer to get online than they tell us,” an ISS manager says. “I would not expect to see anybody until late 2016.”

The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 5, 2011.
The Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, Sunday, June 5, 2011.   (Getty Images)
A Russian Soyuz TMA-02M rocket is mounted at a launch pad in a Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on June 5, 2011.
A Russian Soyuz TMA-02M rocket is mounted at a launch pad in a Russian leased Kazakh Baikonur cosmodrome on June 5, 2011.   (Getty Images)
A Soyuz TMA-02M carrying one US astronaut, one Japanese astronaut and two Russian Cosmonauts blasts off June 8 to the International Space Station.
A Soyuz TMA-02M carrying one US astronaut, one Japanese astronaut and two Russian Cosmonauts blasts off June 8 to the International Space Station.   (Getty Images)
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