NASA officials are whining that the Russian space program is unsafe. True, the last two Soyuz capsules have had rough re-entries, but none of the crew got a scratch on them. In fact, last we checked the Russian space program hasn't had a death on their watch since 1971 (1967 Soyuz I crash pictured). NASA can't exactly say the same, (cough ::Columbia:: cough) so where do they get off pointing fingers?
It might be an inferiority complex. Soyuz capsules aren't renewable, but the Russians have been running them reliably into orbit for over forty years. NASA's space shuttle program's been going since 1981 and has had two major disasters.
But as The Washington Post's Marc Kaufman points out, they may also be nervous about relying on a program that's looked a little shaky of late:
Two consecutive chaotic and dangerous landings by Soyuz space capsules, including one with an American astronaut aboard, have NASA and space experts concerned about the spacecraft's reliability in ferrying astronauts to and from the international space station.
The worries are compounded by the fact that starting in 2010, when the space shuttle fleet will be retired, the United States will be entirely dependent on Russia's Soyuz capsules and rockets for transporting all astronauts and most cargo to the station — until at least 2015.
There's discussion later on in the article of additional funding to get NASA's new Orion capsule up and running before 2015, and that's a good idea. Way better than complaining about the one program on Earth that's reliable enough to keep human spaceflight going while it's American counterpart takes half a decade off.
Source: The Washington Post