Thursday, December 8, 2022

Russia-U.S. space partnership perists despite Ukraine war

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Inside the space company, it’s being celebrated as one other milestone for certainly one of NASA’s most profitable applications, the International Space Station, which for greater than twenty years has been a logo of exploration and worldwide collaboration.

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Last week, after President Biden mentioned that the sanctions in opposition to Russia would “degrade” its space program, Dmitry Rogozin, the top of Roscosmos, the Russian space company, fired off tweets asking if the U.S. wished to break the cooperation between the international locations in operating the space station. He reminded Biden that Russia is chargeable for firing the thrusters that preserve the station within the right orbit, and threatened that with out Russia, the station might come crashing down.

NASA’s response has been far much less incendiary. It mentioned it’s persevering with its regular spaceflight operations in partnership with Roscosmos “for ongoing safe operations.” It mentioned that “no changes are planned on the agency’s support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations.”

In a name with reporters Monday, Kathy Lueders, NASA’s affiliate administrator for space operations mentioned, “we are not getting any indications at a working level that our counterparts are not committed to ongoing operation on the International Space Station. We as a team are operating just like we were operating three weeks ago.”

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She mentioned NASA and its Russian counterparts “are still talking together. We’re still doing training together. We’re still working together. Obviously, we understand the global situation and where it is, but as a joint team, these teams are operating together.”

She added that, “obviously we need to continue to monitor the situation. … We’ve operated in these kinds of situations before and both sides always operated very professionally and understand the importance of this fantastic mission and continuing to have peaceful relations between the two countries in space.”

NASA continues to work to fly Russian cosmonauts on American spacecraft, and American astronauts fly on the Russia Soyuz spacecraft, just like the one that’s anticipated to carry Vande Hei dwelling in a number of weeks, the NASA spokesperson mentioned.

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The spacecraft is anticipated to land in Kazakhstan on the morning of March 30, and if NASA is conducting regular operations, as anticipated, it will have a staff in place, together with a flight physician, able to whisk Vande Hei dwelling. Typically, NASA tries to return its astronauts to Houston as rapidly as attainable and has a helicopter prepared close to the touchdown website to take the astronaut to a close-by airport, from which the NASA staff flies again to the United States on a NASA jet.

During his time on the station, Vande Hei, a retired Army colonel and an Iraq War veteran, has mentioned he was “proud to be part of this team,” and helped help his Russian colleagues throughout a spacewalk.

For years, Americans and Russians have labored aspect by aspect in space and on the bottom. After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA was depending on Russia to fly its astronauts to and from the station. That dependence sure the space companies much more intently collectively.

While in Kazakhstan, “we effectively operate as one team,” Kenny Todd, NASA’s former deputy space station program supervisor, mentioned throughout a NASA podcast in 2020. “Whether it’s European astronauts, or NASA astronauts, or Russian cosmonauts. everybody is acting as one. And again, it’s a wonderful partnership, and you really get to see it play out when you’re out in the field like that.”

But extra just lately, the geopolitical strains between the international locations have begun to fray the connection.

While Rogozin is understood for his bluster, “that was significant,” mentioned Leroy Chiao, a former NASA astronaut who flew on the Soyuz. “It was the first time somebody in the space agency made some kind of reference to threatening the partnership.”

Still, he mentioned that “cooler heads have got to prevail. It would be bad for Russia, too, to lose or compromise the ISS in any way.”

Scott Pace, the director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University who served as the chief secretary of the National Space Council within the Trump administration, informed The Washington Post late final 12 months that the partnership was delicate. The station “might be a high-water mark for U.S.-Russia relations. But it’s not invulnerable. … If we were to start over today, we would not have the Russians as partners on the station. That was done in another, more hopeful, era.”

Bill Nelson, the present NASA administrator, has tried to maintain an open dialogue with Rogozin and Roscosmos. But he strongly condemned Russia after it blew up a lifeless satellite tv for pc final 12 months, scattering tons of of items of particles in orbit that threaten the space station. He referred to as it “reckless and dangerous,” and mentioned he was “outraged by this irresponsible and destabilizing action.”

Still, the Biden administration just lately introduced that despite the tensions with Russia, it wished to maintain its partnership going and prolong the station’s life span from 2024 to 2030.

“As more and more nations are active in space, it’s more important than ever that the United States continues to lead the world in growing international alliances and modeling rules and norms for the peaceful and responsible use of space,” Nelson mentioned on the time.

After the ISS, nevertheless, NASA isn’t trying to associate with Russia. Instead, it’s working with personal sector firms to develop industrial space stations.

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