The Russian invasion of Georgia complicated what was already a major headache for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration: how to get to and from the International Space Station, which was funded mostly by U.S. taxpayer dollars, after NASA's aging fleet of space shuttles retires in 2010. NASA expected Russian rockets to ferry its astronauts between 2010 and 2015, when the shuttle's replacement is due to fly. But a chill in U.S.-Russian relations could throw a monkey wrench into that plan.
When the Bush administration decided to rely on Russia to cover the five-year gap in U.S. capability, relations with the Kremlin were cozier. Those days may be over. Congress will also have a say now because NASA can't piggyback on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft without a waiver from a federal law banning government contracts with nations that give nuclear aid to Iran and North Korea - which Russia has. That could be a tough call for lawmakers upset over the administration's foreign policy and failure to fund a shuttle replacement in time.