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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's cash-strapped space agency said on Tuesday it would stop giving U.S. astronauts free rides into orbit in the future.
Russia has single-handedly serviced the International Space Station, a $95 billion orbiting laboratory, for almost two years since the United States grounded its Shuttles after the fatal Columbia accident.
It has made no secret of the financial pinch it has felt from having to launch joint U.S.-Russian manned missions and cargo ships to the station, saying its space budget is a mere fraction of NASA's resources.
Ticket To Ride
Anatoly Perminov said the no-cost agreement between NASA and Russia's space agency Roskosmos could be replaced by a barter arrangement, according to the Interfax news agency.
NASA said it plans to resume its shuttle program in May.
The Russian agency has been looking to expand commercial ventures in recent years, amid dwindling government budgets for space-related research.
The agency is expected soon to sign a contract with the European Space Agency to send an Italian astronaut to the space station in April, along with a Russian cosmonaut and a NASA astronaut.