Your April 11 editorial expresses concern over the “watering down” of the Iran Non P roliferation Act (INA), which prohibits NASA from procuring any Russian hardware for the international space station. But this assumes the INA is having its intended effect. In fact it has accomplished nothing. And that’s hardly surprising since it clearly requires Russia to stop the sale by “any person” of any “goods, services, or technology” that could potentially contribute to weapons development in Iran.
This would require a virtual embargo to comply with, and in any case Russia earns more from construction of the nuclear power plant at Bushehr alone than it could make from NASA for supporting the space station .
Moreover, since the United States continues to launch payloads on the Cyclone, buy Russian engines for the Atlas 5 (used by our own Department of Defense ) and supply the technology that has made Russia the world’s second largest exporter of oil, it’s pretty clear to all concerned that even the U.S. government doesn’t consider this issue serious enough to warrant any meaningful action.
But the effect on the s pace station has been crucial. When power and communications were unexpectedly lost while both crewmen were on an extravehicular activity, or spacewalk, the crew was placed in a hazardous situation.
It could easily have been prevented had there been a third crew member on the station, but the crew was cut to two because we could not procure an extra Progress to bring the necessary supplies. With an extra Soyuz and a few more Progress flights, the crew could be increased to six today. With its current crew, the station can perform only a fraction of the research planned for it. The INA has crippled the international space station program and compromised the safety of its crew.
After five long years, it is time to face facts. The INA has accomplished nothing for arms control, compromised the safety and effectiveness of the international space station, and undermined the unprecedented sense of trust and cooperation between the United States and Russia that the space station had engendered.
We can hardly be accused of acting precipitously if, after years of shooting ourselves in the foot, we finally come to our senses and stop.
Dan Woodard, Merritt Island, Fla.