Russia and U.S. Boost Space Station Cooperation, Despite Earthly Disputes
Published: June 7, 2014 (Issue # 1814)
Even as Russian-U.S. bilateral relationship tears at the seams, NASA and the Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmos, are pooling their resources and launching new joint projects aboard the International Space Station, or ISS, in a drive to make the most of the crucial project while it lasts, Russian and U.S. space officials close to the agencies said.
"We have had a strong partnership and we are working to make sure we get full use out of the space station for quite a while," Sean Fuller, NASA's director of human spaceflight in Russia told the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday.
Having been a seemingly unshakable cornerstone of U.S.-Russian cooperation for nearly 20 years, the space partnership has recently been forcefully politicized by its political masters, after the political crisis in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea sparked the iciest standoff Russia and the West have seen since the Cold War. The crisis has so far seen NASA ordered by the U.S. government to cut off all non-ISS related ties with Roscosmos, a Russian attempt to ransom U.S. GPS stations on Russian territory for the right to build its own Glonass monitoring stations in the U.S. and a restriction of aerospace trade between the two nations.
But, perhaps most concerning for NASA and Roscosmos, who have consistently sworn that their relationship has remained sound throughout the political struggle in Eastern Europe, was a bombastic statement by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin in mid-May — that Russia was not interested in accepting a NASA proposal to extend the life of ISS beyond 2020.
Although head leadership of both NASA and Roscosmos have remained silent on the issue of ISS extension, both agencies are now looking to make the most out of the time they have left together, regardless of how long that may be. Hot on the heels of a meeting with program directors representing the 15 nations involved in ISS, Fuller said "each of the partners is working within their government" on the issue of extension beyond 2020. From an engineering standpoint, much of the legwork has already been done, and ISS could continue on well into the 2020s, he added.
ISS is an unprecedented human achievement: a permanently manned outpost in space that has facilitated peaceful cooperation between the high-tech and scientific bases of 15 nations, as well as the largest international cooperative project ever undertaken by nations during peacetime.
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