The USA must resolve its problems over paying Russia for crew return from the International Space Station (ISS) by next April, says the new chairman of a key Congressional subcommittee. The USA will become responsible for ISS crew return in 2006, but has no space vehicle to do the job, and Russia's Soyuz capsule will remain the only way of returning astronauts.

But Russia is demanding that the USA pay for the supply of Soyuz spacecraft on a commercial basis. The obstacle to paying for Soyuz use is a law passed in 1999 that prohibits the US government from directly supporting the Russian space programme. "We'll work these problems out. I'm confident that we will come to a positive resolution," says Congressman Ken Calvert, new chairman of the House space and aeronautics subcommittee. "We're working on resolving [the issue of the legal barrier]. We have got to get that done by next April."

The last of the originally planned non-commercial Soyuz missions goes to the Space Station this week and is to return in October. Russia and NASA have extended Soyuz use into 2006 to cover Russian ISS workshare debt, but that will end.

Calvert also says there is a need for a total review of all NASA activity down to the individual employee. He says the review is required because there is a mismatch between the space exploration vision goals, the future of aeronautics and the space agency's infrastructure.

Source: Flight International