With tensions rising between the US and Russia, many have been on the cooperation between the two countries, especially when it comes to space.
NASA has said operations continue as planned, as the International Space Station program has continued to function for decades, despite geopolitical tension.
The environment of space always has the risk of danger. NASA leaders said astronauts and cosmonauts must cooperate to keep ISS functioning properly in space.
An invasion and rising tensions across the world may be causing people to wonder over the partnership existing 200-some miles above Earth at the now orbiting laboratory, the International Space Station (ISS). The ISS was designed, decades ago, to be shared between countries like Russia and the US for years.
“The International Space Station has been the flagship model for International cooperation,” Joel Montalbano, NASA ISS Program Manager, said Monday.
ISS operations have been a partnership that has withstood geopolitical tensions for more than two decades. From its part of the ISS, Russia provides the propulsion necessary to keep the ISS within the orbit. From the US side of the ISS, NASA provides the orientation, communications and more.
“We both need each other to operate,” Montalbano said.
With the invasion in Ukraine escalating, Elon Musk sending Starlink terminals to help Ukrainians get access to the internet, and amongst the US sanctions against Russia, heads turned when the head of the Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin spit out constant vitriol on Twitter, even retweeting a strange video showing what appears to be two cosmonauts waving ‘goodbye’ to NASA Astronaut Mark Vande Hei and appearing to potentially leave him behind. Vande Hei and two cosmonauts, Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov, are expected to hop on a Soyuz back to Kazahkstahn on March 30.
Despite the rumors and confusion, NASA’s Space Station Program Manager set the record straight.
“The reality is Mark’s coming home on March 30 with Anton and Pyotr—period,” Montalbano said. “We will continue to pick up Mark Vande Hei with a NASA plane as we’ve always done.”
NASA via the Johnson Space Center stated:
No changes are planned to the agency’s support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations. On March 30, a Soyuz spacecraft will return as scheduled carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov back to Earth. Upon their return, Vande Hei will hold the American record for the longest single human spaceflight mission of 355 days.
“You don’t see country lines or state lines. The teams continue to work together. Are they aware of what’s going on Earth? Absolutely. But the teams are professional. The astronauts and cosmonauts are some of the most professional groups you’ll ever see. They continue to operate well,” Montalbano said, emphasizing that the teams are mission-focused and have built a relationship over the years.
The US has been making a progression to be less dependent on Russian help.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program has taken off, giving the US the renewed capability of launching from American soil once again via the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Falcon9 rocket system.
Crew 4 is headed up to Station in April.
SpaceX will also take a private Axiom Space mission up to Station on March 30 as well.