NASA Broke Up With Russia's Space Agency, Now What?
The International Space Station, aka the one thing NASA and Roscosmos are still talking about.
The United States has ended things between NASA and Russia's space agency. While the U.S. has yet to issue a Taylor Swiftian pop ballad about the breakup, a memo on the split did get leaked.
We can't say we didn't see this coming. Things have been, shall we say, tense between the two countries since Russia got involved in the Ukrainian mess (and subsequently annexed Crimea.) All this while it seemed like NASA had managed to stay above the political fray and we crossed our fingers that the two space programs wouldn't get caught in a Romeo and Juliet situation due to the increasingly cold relations between their respective parent countries. That ended on Wednesday when Associate Administrator Michael O'Brien sent out a memo announcing they were severing all contact between NASA and Roscosmos, indefinitely.
Here's the memo, published by Space Ref:
From: O'Brien, Michael F (HQ-TA000) Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 9:33 AM To: [Deleted] Cc: [Deleted]
Subject: Suspension of NASA contact with Russian entities
Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance. If desired, our office will assist in communication with Russian entities regarding this suspension of activities. Specific questions regarding the implementation of this guidance can be directed to Ms. Meredith McKay, 202.358.1240 or firstname.lastname@example.org, in our office.
We remain in close contact with the Department of State and other U.S. Government departments and agencies. If the situation changes, further guidance will be disseminated.
Michael F. O'Brien
Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Despite assurances last week that the goings-on between the U.S. and Russia would never have any implications for the space programs, the signs were there. At the same time everyone was reassuring each other about how diplomacy on Earth could never lead to problems in space, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden wrote a blog last week urging the U.S. to figure out how to start flying ourselves to space and to stop depending on the Russians for access to the International Space Station and space in general.