In early March … Ukraine issues “will not” affect US/Russia Space Station future

I was reflecting on the future of the Space Station back in 2008 during the conflict between Russia and Georgia. How would the station continue to operate if diplomacy between the US and Russia took a dive? Certainly the Space Station is an international effort, but what if? The same exact subject came up in late February and early March with the issues in the Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea by Russia. The immediate spin was “no problem.”

Here is the article from CNN in early March. NASA was saying don’t worry ’bout it.

On Earth, the United States may be trading bitter accusations with Russia over Ukraine.

But in space, it’s a different story.

The space collaboration between the two nations has survived other diplomatic kerfuffles. And there’s no need to worry, NASA says.

“We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have any impact on our civil space cooperation with Russia, including our partnership on the International Space Station program,” said Allard Beutel, a NASA spokesman.

Proving that NASA spokesmen know little about foreign policy I guess. We know the US is unable to put anyone into space at this point without forking over more than $70 million per seat to get our astronauts up there. We also know many of our rocket engines to launch other payloads – including just about every military satellite – into space are provided by Russia.

Certainly this could be a huge failure for the Obama administration, but this has been brewing for years as the United States became more dependent on Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and we’ve become afraid of our own success. Now we learn Russia is floating the idea of “banning” the US from using the International Space Station (ISS).

Russia is to deny the US future use of the International Space Station beyond 2020 and will also bar its rocket engines from launching US military satellites as it hits back at American sanctions imposed over Ukraine crisis.

Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced a series of punitive measures on Tuesday against the US in response to sanctions imposed after Russia annexed Crimea.

The two countries have long cooperated closely on space exploration despite their clashes in foreign policy.

The Space Station is manned by both American and Russian crew, but the only way to reach it is by using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

The US is keen to keep the $100 billion (£600) ISS flying until at least 2024, four years beyond its original target.

At this point, 2020 is a long way down the road, and the folks here in the US that use Russian rocket engines to launch military satellites say they have plenty in stock for future missions. From Steve Gilbert at Sweetness & Light.

… we didn’t even realize the US was depending on Russian rocket engines to launch its military satellites. For crying out loud. Can’t we divert some of the money NASA is using to study global warming and to do Muslim outreach towards building rocket engines?

Gilbert also notes there is a legal framework in place – an actual treaty – concerning operation of the ISS. Here is the complete Space Station Treaty, and there are memos of understanding covering the details. And exactly how does Vladimir Putin feel about treaties and agreements?

Look, as of today the ISS continues to operate as normal and I’m quite certain the international staff and operations folks on the ground are all getting along as they normally do. That’s great. But what does the future hold?

Certainly many people in the United States are uncomfortable with the concept of American exceptionalism, claiming it just doesn’t work in the 21st Century. Remember when we could do really cool stuff and be proud of it? We now seem to be in a phase where we don’t encourage partners and friends to be exceptional by being exceptional ourselves, rather we disband our own triumphs so we feel better in an effort to ensure everyone likes us.

8 replies
  1. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Since the US Space Program has fascinated me for years, I have always worried about this. Who the heck believes an agreement with any country, will be upheld? Are we so naive that we can’t learn from history that countries change agendas? “Democracies” become tolitarian, even the US has changed from a republic to an oligarchy. The Space Station is the perfect storm of the drama of hostages. Well thanks, Steve, you’ve brought another nightmare to the rest of the nightmares from this regime and it’s total failure of foreign policy.

    • sammy22
      sammy22 says:

      As usual, Lynn, these programs (and R&D as well) need money to keep then going. The NASA budget has been decreasing as a percentage of the Federal Budget since 2000.

    • sammy22
      sammy22 says:

      Actually the dollar amount of the NASA budget has gone up from $13.4B in 2000 to $17.8B in 2012, and held steady for 2013, 2014 and projected for 2015.

    • sammy22
      sammy22 says:

      I totally agree that NASA should be funded at higher levels than it is now: there is a lot of bang per each buck! The lower funding levels for NASA started more than a decade ago, before Pres. Obama and the current Congress. The American public has “lost interest” in the space program.

  2. Lynn
    Lynn says:

    Since no one else is interested, had to comment again. I don’t think NASA should be funded higher, I think the money ought to be redistributed. There is plenty of money there.

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