As recently reported in Space News, Congress included language in the continuing resolution to waive the application of the Iran-North Korea-Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) allowing NASA to continue to collaborate with on the space station. Importantly this gives NASA the green light to move ahead with plans to retire the space shuttle and use the Russians to lift our astronauts into space after 2010 when the shuttles are moved to museums.

I was one of the few members of Congress opposed to this waiver of INKSNA and it should be a concern to all Americans, especially those who care about foreign policy, national security and our nation’s leadership in space.

It is estimated that it will be 2015 at the earliest before the shuttle replacement will be ready to fly. This period of dependence on for spacelift has already grown from four years to five. If there are funding and technical problems in Orion and Ares development, this period of Russian dependence could end up lasting six years or longer.

Waiving the application of INKSNA at this time is very disturbing. , which is pursuing nuclear weapons, is the greatest funder of terrorism the world over, and makes no secret of its preference to see destroyed.

just finished invading a sovereign state, , and has made threatening statements against and . In the same week that Congress passed this waiver, announced its intent to sell a missile defense system not to protect its people, but to protect its nuclear weapons facilities.

also is planning on entering into a cooperative nuclear program with antagonist Hugo Chavez of . What ever happened to the Monroe Doctrine? Exactly what will it take to stop this cooperation with the Russians?

Now NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has said we have to do this because we have no choice. He makes a good point. If we don’t use the Russians then our astronauts will be grounded. It would be a national embarrassment to have our $100 billion investment in a space station orbiting above with no Americans on board.

But Michael Griffin is right to a point. He cannot speak too loudly on the rest of the story without running afoul of his taskmasters at the White House Office of Management and Budget and their boss at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

The fact is this all boils down to money. For years both the Clinton and Bush administrations have not wanted to spend what it will really take to have a first-class space program. They want to do things on the cheap by using the Great Proliferator, , as our critical partner in space.

Congress has often responded by trying to increase NASA funding, but then it regularly loads the NASA appropriation with a half a billion dollars of earmarks that wipe out the increases and cut further into the funding for critical programs.

To its credit Congress did throw NASA a lifeline after passing this Russian waiver by passing a NASA authorization bill calling for some shuttle operations after 2010. Importantly, it orders the agency not to do anything before April 2009 that would prevent continued shuttle operations, and it allows the agency up to $20.2 billion for 2009. We must remember, though, that this is not an appropriation bill.

This is the situation that the next president will inherit when he comes into office in January. NASA, now 50 years old, would never have been created in 1958 without the leadership of President Eisenhower. Without the leadership of John Kennedy, NASA would never have gone on to put a man on the Moon 11 years later.

But all that presidential leadership and hard work did more than just land a man on the Moon. It inspired an entire generation of American youth to study math, science and engineering, three disciplines educators tell us we are falling behind in today.

Many of those inspired people went on to work for NASA and also our nation’s defenses. They created companies that employed thousands of people. became a stronger and healthier nation and the world has benefited from it. I think it is a serious mistake to assume that underfunding our nation’s civilian space efforts will have little effect beyond Cocoa Beach,

Fifty years after the dark days of the Cold War America remains the greatest force for peace and freedom on the planet. But as in those days of uncertainty, today there are many people, like ‘s President MahmoudAchmadinijad, claiming that we are a weak country on the verge of collapse.

When we sign deals with the Russians to put our astronauts in orbit claiming we cannot afford to do anything differently, we are reinforcing those wrong-headed opinions and we are encouraging Russian adventurism.

We can do better.

The next president of the United States needs to step up and say and do the right thing for NASA and our leadership in the world. We can afford to accelerate the funding for the Constellation Program and keep our shuttles flying until the new system is operational.

The question is: Do we have the will?

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla) represents his state’s 15th congressional district.