Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has heightened tensions between the United States and Russia to ranges not seen for the reason that Cold War. But that has not affected the international locations’ partnership in space, which has endured for greater than 20 years — at the very least for now.
“All these activities have continued for 20 years, and nothing has changed in the last three weeks,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s space station program supervisor, mentioned at a briefing Monday. “We’re aware of what’s going on, but we are able to do our jobs to continue operations.”
He dismissed any notion that Vande Hei wouldn’t fly house along with his Russian colleagues as scheduled. “I can tell you for sure Mark is coming home on that Soyuz,” he mentioned. “We are in communication with our Russian colleagues. There’s no fuzz on that.”
The Russian and American segments of the station rely upon one another. The United States gives energy to the Russian aspect; Russia’s Progress car makes use of its thrusters to maintain the station within the appropriate orbit or to dodge particles. While NASA’s Cygnus spacecraft might additionally enhance the station, it will require the Russian thrusters to maintain it within the appropriate orientation, or angle, Montalbano mentioned.
“It’s a team. We work together,” he mentioned. “There’s not really an operation that you can just separate and go your own way, because of the interdependency that was designed from the beginning.”
Still, a number of NASA advisers have urged the company to be serious about contingency plans that may be wanted in a worst-case state of affairs. Dmitry Rogozin, the pinnacle of Roscosmos, the Russian space company, has mentioned that since Russia is answerable for boosting the station, it might drive it to come back crashing down. He has threatened to contemplate dissolving the partnership, saying Russia would “closely monitor the actions of our American partners and, if they continue to be hostile, we will return to the question of the existence of the International Space Station.”
Scott Kelly, a former NASA astronaut who spent practically a 12 months on the space station with a Russian colleague, has been significantly vocal, calling out Rogozin on Twitter. He additionally mentioned he would return a Russian medal he acquired for his spaceflight to Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council: “Please give it to a Russian mother whose son dies in this unjust war.”
For now, Russia has dedicated to being part of the ISS by 2024. NASA is planning to increase the lifetime of the station to 2030. If there have been any type of formal dissolution of the partnership between Russia and the United States, it will have to go earlier than what is named the Multilateral Coordination Board, the worldwide coalition that governs the space station.
“If the Russians want to leave, it’s going to be up to them,” mentioned Scott Pace, who’s head of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University and served as the chief secretary of the National Space Council within the Trump administration. “I don’t see the partners or the MCB kicking the Russians out. The Russians would have to decide on their own that they want to leave. And so far, they haven’t.”
Still, he mentioned, NASA and the White House needs to be “thinking about backups and alternatives,” as a result of the partnership is “not invulnerable.”
That was a view additionally expressed by Wayne Hale, a former space shuttle program supervisor at NASA who chairs a NASA advisory board.
“The old flight director in me says you ought to be prepared for any contingency,” he mentioned. “I rest assured that the right people are thinking about the right things in case unfortunate circumstances unfold. But I sure hope they don’t.”
Asked whether or not NASA was making ready for a dissolution of the partnership, Montalbano didn’t present a direct reply, saying solely that “at this time there’s no indication from my Russian partners that they want to do anything different. So we are planning to continue operations as we are today.”
That consists of getting Vande Hei house safely. Montalbano mentioned there can be a crew of about 20 on-site to take Vande Hei house after the Russian spacecraft lands in Kazakhstan on March 30. They will fly him house on a NASA airplane.
Later that day, a gaggle of personal residents, who’ve paid $55 million every, are to launch to the space station on a mission organized by Axiom Space, a Houston-based firm that’s working to construct a industrial space station that would change the ISS.
After that, NASA is making ready to ship up one other crew of astronauts and convey one other crew house in what quantities to a very busy time on the station. And for now, the whole lot is working usually, regardless of the warfare on the bottom.
“The teams continue to work together,” Montalbano mentioned. “Are they aware of what’s going on on Earth? Absolutely. But the teams are professional. The astronauts and cosmonauts are some of the most professional groups you’ve ever seen. … And there’s really no tensions with the team. This is what they’ve been trained to do, and they’re up there doing that job.”