WASHINGTON - The Bush administration, forced to weigh its space program against efforts to keep Iran's nuclear ambitions in check, is asking Congress for special permission to buy services it will need for the International Space Station.
Without congressional action, U.S. astronauts would have to vacate the space station next spring except for short visits: the law forbids the purchase of transportation services from Russia because of its cooperation in Iran's quest for nuclear power, said NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin.
NASA wants to buy Soyuz ships, or seats on them, so it can continue leaving astronauts on the station.
After April 2006, Russia no longer will be required to provide the Soyuz spacecraft that flies astronauts to the space station and serves as an escape boat for those living for months on the orbiting lab. The Soyuz is part of Russia's commitment as one of the international partners involved in the station.
Griffin and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter this week to lawmakers saying they will propose a change that "maintains U.S. non-proliferation principles and objectives, while also maintaining the U.S. Russia space partnership."