You'd think being surrounded by the cold and endless void known as space would be enough to get nations to leave their money squabbling behind, but that's not the case. Ever since Russia started charging the U.S. to send astronauts to the International Space Station, other countries have responded in kind. The new pay-to-play model of outer space research is already making things difficult for those orbiting the earth in zero gravity to get their work done.
In the past the cosmonauts and astronauts shared everything, operating like a 250-mile-high hippie commune, but since the money bickering has started they've been told to stick to their own spaces and food. The disputes are both petty and ridiculous. Russians on board just found out that they will no longer have access to the American gym and have also been told to avoid sharing rations. On a move that makes me wonder if the CEO of Ryanair has a stake in space travel, the astronauts and cosmonauts have been told not to use another country's toilet!
Now I understand that space travel is costly, but can't the involved nations get together and treat the whole adventure like a carpool? If Russia drove last week, then it's our turn to drive this week. What's that? Your shuttle's in the shop? Maybe if we offer to pick up the gas instead of being a mooch, Russia won't bill us $719 million to ferry our astronauts to the space station!
Fortunately, smarter minds prevail in outer space. Judging from cosmonaut Padalka's comments and those of NASA astronaut Michael Barratt, the crew treats the public areas and resources of the station as such. You would think with the addition of $35 million from billionaire space tourist Charles Simonyi, the two countries could forget about such petty pursuits and focus on bigger concerns, like how fast the DOW could climb without gravity holding it back.
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