For more than two decades, the International Space Station (ISS) has served as a collaborative research vessel for astronauts around the world. Scientific experiments performed on the spacecraft with permanent humans are seen as an integral part of future exploration and have even provided the basis for discoveries here on Earth.
More than a research lab, the ISS Program was hailed as a post-Cold War diplomatic triumph for Russia and the US partners, who operate the ship alongside Canada, Europe and Japan.
But now, geopolitics threatens to jeopardize that job. Russia is reflecting on the launch of its orbital space station in 2025, while discussing the withdrawal of the ISS Program to go alone, reports AFP. The country’s space agency began work on the station’s first central module, according to a statement shared in the Telegram by Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin. Moscow says its discussions are based on the age of the ISS, but it is difficult to ignore the impact of recent events there.
“As soon as we make a decision, we will start negotiations with our partners on the forms and conditions of cooperation after 2024,” Roscosmos told AFP in a statement. Russia lost control of its entry into the ISS last year after SpaceX completed its first operational mission to NASA’s orbital laboratory. Vladimir Putin also warned that the United States’ decision to launch a Space Force suggests that the White House sees space as a “military theater and plans to conduct operations there”. Meanwhile, the Biden government’s criticism of Russia’s treatment of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny – and growing fears of a military conflict in Ukraine – further damaged relations between the two sides. Russia also has a history of operating space laboratories. Previously, she built Mir, a modular space station that had been in orbit for 15 years and would be working with China on a lunar research station.