NASA Deputy Associate Administrator Wayne Hale has a great post in his blog,Shutting down the shuttle, in which he discusses the problems associated with restarting the Shuttle program so that the U.S. has independent manned Space access.
I agree with everything he writes. It must be clear to everyone, from the President to Congress to the public, everyone should understand that it will neither be cheap nor quick, and decisions need to be made now, if we are going to continue to fly the Shuttle beyond 2010.
In the past, Congress has shown reluctance to waive the Iran, North Korean and Syria Nonproliferation Act so that NASA could purchase rides on Soyuz spacecraft from Russia, who is a major enabler for those states. After Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Georgia on August 6th, those waivers are simply unacceptable politically, a reality every bit as unmoving as those you discuss in your post.
So, the question boils down to this. Is the cost of restarting the Shuttle supply chain, keeping the Shuttle launching, and moving up Orion/Ares so large that the President and Congress would rather swallow their indignance over Russia’s invasion a U.S. ally and continue paying Russia for rides on Soyuz? I think, I hope, that the answer is no.