The president of Brazil’s Space Agency (Agência Espacial Brasileira) (AEB), Sergio Gaudenzi, says the country’s astronaut training program is presently at a standstill as everybody awaits a decision by the US and the European Union on the future of the International Space Station (ISS).
Sixteen countries are involved in the ISS scientific project: Russia, Japan, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Spain, Brazil and the United States.
"The ISS project is very expensive. France and Germany have started questioning its usefulness and pointing to problems, such as the fact that many experiments can be done without the ISS, and that it is too close to Earth (400 kilometers) to be a stepping stone to outer space missions," explains Gaudenzi.
Most of the costs of the ISS are covered by the US and the EU. Brazil is a minority contributor. A decision on the future of the ISS will have a direct affect on the Brazilian astronaut program.
At the moment, there is only one Brazilian astronaut. He is Air Force Lt. Col. Marcos Pontes, who was selected eight years ago and has been in training ever since. He is finally scheduled to go into space at the end of this month abroad a Russian Soyuz and spend eight days at the ISS.
The question is "What happens after Pontes?" Gaudenzi says that depending on what is decided about the ISS, Brazil could begin selecting more astronauts.
"But, because we are minority partners in the project, we are awaiting a decision by others on the future of the ISS. That decision will determine our future direction," he concluded.