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NASA cuts ties with Russia except on space station
Question of the Day
NASA employees can’t travel to Russia or host visitors until further notice. They’re also barred from emailing or holding teleconferences with their Russian counterparts because of Russia’s actions in Ukraine, according to a memo sent to workers.
Activities related to the space station are exempt. NASA and Russia’s space agency will “continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation” of the space station, NASA said in a statement released late Wednesday.
A Russian rocket last week delivered three astronauts, including American Steve Swanson. The laboratory is a partnership of the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. U.S. astronauts train in Russia before flying to the space station and the new directive was not expected to affect that.
After the memo leaked Wednesday, NASA confirmed it was suspending most contact with Russia. But it also took a swipe at Congress, noting that it wouldn’t be relying on Russia to fly to the space station if funding hadn’t been cut. The space agency said it’s looking at private rocket companies to ferry astronauts in 2017.
Space policy experts said they’re not surprised with the latest guideline because similar memos suspending Russian contact went out to other federal agencies.
Earlier this week, Congress and NATO took steps to punish Russia for its actions in Ukraine. Congress sent President Barack Obama a bill to provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and add to sanctions against Russia. NATO’s foreign ministers ordered an end to civilian and military cooperation with Russia.
Scott Pace, space policy director at George Washington University, said it’s noteworthy that the cooperation on the space station remains intact.
“We and the Russians have a very deep and integrated relationship. We are reliant on them as they are on us,” he said. “Divorce is not an option.”
Pace said there likely will be disruptions for NASA scientists who trade data or work on experiments with Russian researchers.
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