NASA suspends contacts with Roscosmos over Russia’s annexation of Crimea

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – NASA has suspended contacts with the Russian space agency Roscosmos in response to Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea last month.

NASA revealed in a statement on Wednesday that the space agency’s officials will suspend email communications, bilateral meetings, teleconferences or videoconferences with Russian officials. Also, NASA officials cannot travel to Russia and Russian officials cannot visit NASA facilities.

However, NASA will continue to collaborate with Roscosmos in the operation of the International Space Station (ISS). There are currently two astronauts in the ISS and the U.S. depends on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft in transporting astronauts two and from the orbiting space station since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011. The U.S. pays $70 million to Russia each time an astronaut hitches on Soyuz capsules delivering supplies to Russian cosmonauts in the ISS.

The NASA statement said the decision to suspend engagement with Roscosmos was a government directive as Washington considers the annexation of Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula populated mostly by ethnic Russians, by Russia illegal and violates Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the same statement, NASA also appealed to Congress for more funding so it can resume manned space flights launched from U.S. soil and end its reliance on Russia to get into space. The agency said Congress’ reduction of its budget delays its program of launching astronauts to space to 2017.

Meanwhile, Russia regretted the NASA move, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov, though the disengagement will adversely affect the U.S. more than Russia.

Ivan Moiseyev, scientific head of Russia’s Space Policy Institute, warned on the repercussions of the NASA-Roscosmos cooperation freeze saying space exploration requires international effort and benefits all nations.

Retired Soviet cosmonaut, Georgy Grechko, 82, told Russia Today that “politics is destructively interfering with scientific-technical work.”

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