NASA may have been a bit blinded this week when its partner, Russia’s Roscosmos, revealed it would decide whether it wanted to leave the ISS permanently or not. The space station has long been a collaboration between the United States and Russia, and has hosted astronauts from many different nations. Russia seems to be changing its mind, and this may be due to the age of the space station and the lack of functionality.
At the time, it didn’t make a ton of sense. The ISS has long been a big deal for Russia and it is one of the few areas where the United States and Russia have a cooperation agreement that, at least from the outside, works pretty well. If political harassment is taken into account, there seemed to be little reason why any country would want to sail, but the announcement by Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin on the Telegram is helping to make things a little clearer. If Russia does decide to leave the ISS, it will almost certainly do so in favor of its own space station.
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As AP reports, Rogozin’s announcement in the Telegram came shortly after news leaked that the country was considering withdrawing from the International Space Station. The message was simple, the Russian space chief said that “the first core module of the new Russian orbital station is under construction.” Rogozin also noted that Energia, the Russian state space corporation, is working on the project and should be ready to launch by 2025. The posts also include a video of Energy workers doing their own thing.
Russia has already agreed to cooperate with NASA on the International Space Station until 2024. In addition, another agreement would have to be reached to continue cooperation. NASA has long believed it will continue to work on the ISS until it makes sense to stop. Russia seems to claim that this limit will be reached soon and that the space station will ultimately be too old and / or insecure to feel comfortable sending its astronauts there.
If that really happens, and Russia withdraws from the ISS in 2025, it will be interesting to see what NASA has decided to do. Russia is apparently working on its own space station to begin construction in space in 2025, but NASA has no such plans. The U.S. space agency wants to send humans to the moon in the next four years (or more) and is working on an Artemis program that will see the construction of the lunar passage as a picnic area for missions to and from the lunar surface. That’s all great, but none of those plans will fill the gap left by the abandoned ISS.
It may be some time before we see what Russia’s final decision is, but Russian chatter this week will undoubtedly attract NASA’s attention.
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