Due to Ukrainian crisis, NASA suspended most of its contracts with Russia. Nevertheless, it will continue working with Russians aboard the International Space Station (ISS), which is a joint project of space agencies from the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Brazil and the EU. All other cooperation with the Russian Space Agency Roskosmos will be suspended: NASA employees will no longer be allowed to travel to Russia and Russian representatives will no longer be allowed to attend the U.S. space agency facilities. They have also canceled bilateral meetings, e-mail contacts and video conferencing.
“Because of Russia’s violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, NASA will suspend most of the current contracts with the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, NASA and Roskosmos will cooperate in maintaining safe and continuous operation of the ISS,” NASA wrote in the statement. The Russian response to NASA’s decision was mixed. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin wrote on Twitter that the U.S. decision will not affect Russia since except for the International Space Station there is no other cooperation in the space field between countries. On the other hand, one of the Roskokosmos associates said that NASA is making a serious move. He added that they are not dependent on NASA, since they have their own functioning spacecrafts. Vladimir Solncev, director of the Russian company Energomash, which among other things manufactures engines for U.S. space rockets Atlas, is convinced that U.S. sanctions will push back space exploration for decades. He is of the opinion that in the end, this decision will have a negative impact on the entire world, since science is important for all mankind.
Currently, the Russian spacecrafts Soyuz are the only ones that are flying the astronauts on the ISS and the United States pay Russia of up to $ 70 million per seat. Russian expert on space travel Yuri Karas is convinced that the recent events will encourage Americans to quickly develop their own spacecraft. NASA is already financing some commercial companies to develop spacecraft and rockets which are planned to start carrying the astronauts as soon as 2017.
Between 1955 and 1972, U.S. and Russia (then Soviet Union) were big rivals in discovering the space. This rivalry has been mostly a matter of prestige, to symbolically show which economic-political system is more successful, American capitalism and Soviet communism. At first, the Soviet Union was in the lead since it successfully launched satellite Sputnik 1 into space in October 1957. In November of the same year the Soviets sent the first living creature into space, dog named Laika. The first man in space was also Soviet, Yuri Gagarin in April 1961. However, in July, 1969, the Americans were the first to land on the Moon and American Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on its surface. Later on, the rivalry calmed down, the U.S. and the Soviet Union began to participate in space programs and in 1975, American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts met in space orbit for the first time. According to the NASA’s decision to suspend most of the current contracts with Russia, there is a high probability that the rivalry between the two countries reappears.
By Janette Verdnik