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NASA Chief: U.S.-Russia tensions will not derail International Space Station

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In statements on Monday, NASA chief Charles Bolden stated that political tensions between the United States and Russia will not derail the International Space Station (ISS). The statements come on the heels of a letter written by three members of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee asking what impact political tensions could have on America's space program.

Bolden's attitude toward the statement that Russia would go it alone is not one of concern, noting that “there is no single partner that can terminate the International Space Station.” Bolden later went on to say that, despite increasingly chilly Washington-Moscow relations, the working relationship between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, has not changed as tensions on Earth have escalated.

Bolden also reiterated his confidence that private companies will develop crewed vehicles capable of reaching the ISS by 2017.

These statements came about because of an letter to Bolden from members of Congress who were growing increasingly concerned about the impact diplomatic difficulties could have on space cooperation. Late last week, Representatives Lamar Smith, Mo Brooks, and Steven Palazzo (all members of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee) wrote a letter to NASA chief Charles Bolden asking just what kind of impact Earthly discord could have on space cooperation.

These concerns in Congress come on the heels of some very heated statements from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Demitry Rogozin. Early last week, Rogozin announced that he would ban exports of Russia's RD-180 rocket engine to the United States unless he (and the Kremlin) was guaranteed that they would not be used for military purposes. For the record, many American rockets use this Russian engine.

The above statement was rather mild when compared to earlier ones Rogozin made, which implied that Russia would go it alone on the International Space Station if it had to (would Russia boot American astronauts?) after 2020. Additionally, in a rather sarcastic, but frank tone on Russian social media, Rogozin said that if the American government didn't like what Russia was doing politically, astronauts could always just take a trampoline into space.

This what some may consider funny statement does have a point, though: as of now, America has no way to get its own astronauts into space, which is made even sadder by the fact that we are now relying on the Russians, who we beat in the Space Race, to get us into space.

Talk about irony!

In the letter, the Congressmen wrote that "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." Needless to say, all three authors have serious questions about the future of American-Russian cooperation in space.

In the end, it will be interesting to see whose feelings are closer to the outcome: Bolden's lack of worries or the Congressmens' trepidations.

Stay tuned!

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