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When, on May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American astronaut to travel into space, he rode atop a Redstone rocket – a modified U.S.-built missile.The astronauts flying to the International Space Station since the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, however, have flown aboard Russian Soyuz capsules. In 2010, astronauts Gene Cernan (Apollo 17), Jim Lovell (Apollos 8 and 13), and Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11) protested NASA's approach in a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama.It was through this method that the United States first sent astronauts to the moon – it has proven successful for more than 50 years.The success demonstrated thus far heartens many, but if NASA's approach fails, the United States may find itself indefinitely relying on the Russians for access to the ISS.To avoid reliance on good Russian-American relations, the United States must accelerate the development of an American rocket.Is it possible that the United States could also lose its longstanding ability to fly astronauts to the ISS?
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