Thursday, December 2

“Divorce inside the station is not possible” says the Russian space chief

(CNN) — Despite threatening to remove Russia from the International Space Station prematurely, the head of the country’s space agency now promises to remain a NASA partner at least until the orbiting outpost is finally removed.

“This is a family, where divorce within the station is not possible,” Dmitry Rogozin told CNN in his first interview with Western media since he became CEO of Roscosmos.

Divorce certainly seemed possible in June, when Rogozin made headlines. for threatening to withdraw from the station unless US sanctions on Russia’s space sector were lifted. Rogozin is also under personal sanctions by the United States for his role as Russia’s deputy defense minister during Crimea’s accession in 2014.

“Either we work together and then the sanctions must be lifted immediately, or we will not work together” and Russia will deploy its own space station, Rogozin said in June, according to Russian state media TASS.

Now Rogozin seems to deny having made those threats in front of Russia’s lower house of parliament.

“I think there is an interpretation problem. Most likely I did not say that,” Rogozin told CNN, speaking in Russian. His words were translated by an interpreter hired by CNN.

“It’s just that we are talking about how we can continue our camaraderie, our friendly relations with our American partners, when the United States government implements sanctions against the same organizations that supply the International Space Station.”

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Another test for the spatial relationship between the United States and Russia

It is a relationship that is being tested politically and in orbit.

In July, the newly docked Russian Nauka module accidentally ignited its thrusters, causing the space station to spiral out of control. At that time, three NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, a Japanese astronaut, and a European Space Agency astronaut were on board. Rogozin admits that “we did have a problem” and blames it on human error.

“The team doesn’t break down on its own,” said Rogozin. “For 21 years, we haven’t done anything like this. An older generation, who knew how to put together a complex structure like this, has retired.”

The incident has raised questions about the reliability of Roscosmos as NASA’s primary partner on the International Space Station. But now that the 23-ton Nauka – which adds Russian laboratory space and dormitories – is there and working Rogozin says it is “the guarantee” that Russia will have the “technical capacity to run the station until such time as reaches the end of its useful life. “

The United States and Russia have been partners in space since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975, when an American Apollo spacecraft docked with a Soviet Soyuz capsule, marking the end of the first space race.

“I believe that cooperation with the Russians, which has been there since 1975, will continue,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, speaking at the Annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs on August 25.

The United States tried to extend this partnership in space to the moon with NASA’s new Artemis program. But so far Russia has refused to participate.

“For this to happen, we request dignified conditions from NASA. We do not want to be assistants or servants,” said Rogozin. “The main condition is equal rights when discussing issues and making joint decisions. That is what we have today on the International Space Station.”

A relationship with another country too

Rogozin insists that Russia wants to preserve its spatial relationship with the United States. “We respect our partners in the United States,” said Rogozin. “We are friends.”

But in June, Russia also announced plans to build the base on the moon with the world’s newest superpower in space: China.

Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas, a senior member of the US Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, says actions speak louder than words.

“Russia feels a clear signal in creating an alliance with China for lunar exploration rather than continuing its historic collaboration by joining the United States,” Moran said, speaking at the Space Symposium.

Pressed if Roscosmos is willing to ditch this decades-long collaboration with NASA, Rogozin was evasive.

“We are pleased that he sees us as a kind of girlfriend, who is trying to cheat on a boyfriend and choose another, but this is not the situation as it seems,” said Rogozin, who wants Roscosmos to partner in space with the United States. and China. “If we cannot work with the United States – not because of us, and I think this can be changed – but if this does not happen, to distribute the responsibility, the risks, the money, we naturally need another partner,” said Rogozin.

Nelson plans to meet Rogozin, probably in Russia, later this year.

When asked to respond to Rogozin’s comments, Nelson said: “I look forward to continuing cooperation with Roscosmos on the International Space Station until 2030 and into the future.” But Nelson did not address the specific conditions that Rogozin demands before Russia joins the Artemis program.

At the end of a nearly hour-long interview, Rogozin said he had a final “big request” for the United States to preserve this decades-long experiment in space diplomacy.

“The United States is a large country. As a large country, it must be kind and sincere. It must propose conditions for its Russian partner, much smaller due to the size of its population and the size of its economy. If these conditions are worthy of us We will accept them. The ball is in the hands of NASA, now in the hands of the United States. “

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