In a letter dated Monday, McCain and two colleagues raised concerns about an impending five-year period when the United States will have to pay Russia to taxi American astronauts to and from the $100 billion International Space Station.
They urged Bush to "direct NASA to take no action for at least one year that would preclude the extended use of the space shuttle beyond 2010."
"We believe that it is imperative, as NASA continues the transition from the space shuttle to successor vehicles, that the means for producing additional flight hardware and obtaining additional flight engineering and support services, not be completely and irretrievably lost through the destruction or deterioration, at least until a clear path to alternative launch capabilities is in hand," the letter says.
It was signed by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La. Both serve states that have large NASA facilities: Johnson Space Center in Houston and the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
The letter was delivered to the White House one week after community and business leaders on Florida's Space Coast met privately with McCain to brief him on challenges faced by NASA and the nation's space program.
Good move on McCain's part. With the current crisis in Georgia, we can't depend on the Russians for transport to the ISS. We have so much invested we can't let the Russians bilk the USA to the point where we can't get to the ISS.