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Congress Asks NASA If the International Space Station Is in Trouble Over U.S.-Russian Relations

"You kids behave yourselves, or I will turn this space station right around and go home." —Russia

iss

Hey, we’re not the only ones concerned that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has been slinging insults and making threats that Russia will just leave everyone else with a crippled ISS in 2020! Congress must have heard what was going on, because they asked NASA if it’s more than just a threat.

Yes, Rogozin has had some colorful words for NASA over the past month. First, he suggested that they use a trampoline to get to space instead of continuing to use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, so I’ll let you read between the lines on that one. (Fair warning: I’m guessing you will find some NSFW language between those lines.)

Then, he said Russia’s fine with just packing up their part of the ISS in 2020, which is four years before everyone else plans to stop using it. It’s not just a petty gesture, either; Russia’s Zvezda module on the ISS houses the station’s propulsion and critical life support functions. He even went so far as to tweet about it, because that’s the world we live in:

So far, all of these have just been bold statements and (possibly) passive-aggressive tweets, but congress finally got concerned enough to ask NASA if it’s going to be a problem. Three high-ranking members of the Science, Space and Technology Committee of the House of Representatives sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, which reads (according to Space.com):

Our international space partnerships, including our partnership with Russia, have historically endured political division. But Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin’s statements raise serious concerns about the strength of those partnerships.

…If Mr. Rogozin’s statement proves to be accurate, we will have to take a step back and evaluate the costs and benefits of maintaining ISS beyond 2020 without our Russian partners.

Then, the letter goes on to ask Bolden for details about exactly what NASA leans on Russia for in the partnership and what functions Russia provides on the ISS. We can get a pretty good idea of what Bolden’s response will be from a statement already released on the matter by NASA officials, which says:

Space cooperation has been a hallmark of U.S.-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station. We have not received any official notification from the Government of Russia on any changes in our space cooperation at this point.

So far, it seems they’re confident in their “keep your friends close and your frenemies closer” policy. Hopefully, they’ll be right, this will blow over, and Rogozin’s strong words will stay just that. Otherwise, the mechanics of engineering a space trampoline may be the least of NASA’s problems.

(via Space.com, image via NASA)

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