Josh Gelernter on how to sanction the Russians:
Crimea has been annexed, and the Kremlin isn’t impressed by meager American Anschluss sanctions. More sanctions are evidently coming, and they present an opportunity.
With the Space Shuttle retired, the United States is forced to pay Russia to ferry our astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Under the current contract, the U.S. buys seats aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for $65 million a pop. A new contract debuts in 2016, and includes a price hike: Over 18 months, the U.S. will shell out $424 million to buy rides for just six astronauts. Now, $424 million is getting to real money; a real sanction would be taking all of it and spending it domestically. Losing half a billion dollars won’t exactly cripple the Russian economy, but it’s enough to make a strong gesture.
Four new American spacecraft are almost ready. Two of them — the X-37 space plane from Boeing and the Dragon capsule from SpaceX — are already flying unmanned missions in Earth orbit. NASA’s in-house solution, the Orion capsule, makes its first unmanned flight in December. Getting one of our options — or all of them — ready by 2016 is only a matter of money and willpower. The will is already there, in spades. Private American firms like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada (which is developing a space shuttle called the Dream Chaser) are dying to get into space. NASA is dying to get back. And a little Russian rivalry will only increase everyone’s enthusiasm. Last time around, it put us on the Moon.
That leaves money. NASA wants to start using private American spacecraft for trips to the space station in 2017. That $424 million, divided among whichever companies agree to meet a new deadline, could push that up a year. Doubling or tripling that amount wouldn’t be a bad idea. A couple of billion dollars is a rounding error in the federal budget, and think what the investment gets us: Putin suffers a real rebuke for occupying part of a friendly democracy. Hundreds of millions of dollars stay in our economy instead of wandering off to Russia. The U.S. phases out ferry rides from the guys we beat in the space race. And best of all, America heads back to the final frontier, with a diversified spaceship portfolio designed for competition-driven pricing and quality.
Whole thing here.