NASA Administrator Charles Bolden is tired of relying on the Russians to carry American astronauts into space.
Currently, the United States pays for spots on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, which carry people and supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) orbiting Earth. The White House decided to retire the Space Shuttle in 2004 after the Columbia disaster, leading to the final launch in 2011.
NASA plans to replace the Space Shuttle with the Orion spacecraft for longer missions and spaceships from private companies for trips to the ISS.
In an op-ed published Friday in Wired titled "Congress, Don’t Make Us Hitch Rides With Russia. Love, NASA," he made the case to Congress to fund the Commercial Crew program, a partnership between NASA and private companies to launch astronauts into low orbit from American soil.
"Just recently, NASA was left with no other choice but to write a $490 million check to our Russian counterparts so that we can get our own astronauts to the Space Station," Bolden wrote. "It doesn’t have to be this way."
Earlier this month, he complained to Congress that they set U.S. launches back two years because of inadequate funding, forcing NASA to ask for money to buy rides on Russian rockets.
"It's as if we keep ordering expensive takeout because we haven’t yet set up our own kitchen — only, in this case, the takeout meals are costing us hundreds of millions of dollars," he wrote in Wired.
He later added, "Space travel is complex, but this choice is simple: Do we invest in ourselves — in our businesses, our ingenuity, our people — or do we choose instead to send our tax-dollars to Russia?"