Despite worsening ties on Earth, Russia is contemplating staying aboard the International Space Station until 2030, NASA reports. It may be months before we get a concrete update on Russia’s official attitude.
NASA and Russia’s state space enterprise, Roscosmos, have been the station’s main collaborators for three decades. The two organisations have pledged to collaborate on the ISS through 2024, but the Biden administration revealed plans to extend the mission until 2030. Russia hasn’t officially agreed yet.
WE ALL UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF THIS CONTINUED PARTNERSHIP, EVEN IN REALLY, REALLY, REALLY TOUGH TIMES.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, involvement by Roscosmos seemed improbable. In reaction to the conflict, the US sanctioned Russia’s biggest businesses, enraging Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin. On Twitter, Rogozin made crazy predictions about the ISS’s future, implying that if Russia left the programme prematurely, the station might collapse on the US. In light of the penalties, he has hinted at rethinking the US cooperation.
Despite all the hyperbole, Roscosmos hasn’t said “no” to the extension and may potentially extend it. “All of our foreign partners, including Roscosmos, are making progress toward station extension through 2030,” Kathy Lueders, NASA’s assistant administrator for space operations, stated Monday. “But we all see the value of this collaboration, especially in difficult times,” Lueders added.
This week, as NASA prepared to welcome back astronaut Mark Vande Hei aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, ISS programme manager Joel Montalbano met with officials from Roscosmos. Program manager Dana Weigel remarked during a news conference that the International Space Station programme is still discussing and working towards 2030. “They mentioned when Joel Montalbano was in Russia, but made no alterations to the plan.”
In late April or early May, NASA hopes to obtain its next major update on extension plans. The condition of Russia-US ties at that time is unknown, although the nations’ cooperation in space may continue.