Russia will leave the International Space Station
Russia will withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024 and build its own outpost in orbit, the country’s new space chief has announced, amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over the war in Ukraine.
The announcement cast doubt on the future of the 24-year-old space station, with experts saying it would be extremely difficult to operate it without the Russians. NASA and its partners hoped to continue operating it until 2030.
Appointed in July to head the Russian space agency Roscocosmos, Yuri Borissov said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin that the decision to leave the station after 2024 had been taken.
“I think at that time we will start forming a Russian orbital station,” he said.
The space station has long been a symbol of post-Cold War international teamwork in the name of science, but today it is one of the last areas of cooperation between the United States and the Kremlin.
NASA officials said they have yet to hear directly from their Russian counterparts* about this. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson released a statement saying the agency was “committed to the safe operation” of the space station through 2030 and continued “to build future capabilities to ensure our major presence in orbit. low terrestrial”.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the announcement an “unfortunate development” given the “valuable professional collaboration* our space agencies have had over the years”.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the United States was “exploring options” to deal with a Russian withdrawal.
Russian officials have long spoken of their desire to launch their own space station and have complained that the wear and tear on the aging International Space Station is compromising* safety and could make it difficult to extend its lifespan.
Cost can also be a factor. With Elon Musk’s SpaceX company now ferrying NASA astronauts to and from the space station, the Russian space agency has lost a major source of revenue. NASA had been paying tens of millions of dollars per seat for rides aboard Russian Soyuz rockets for years.
The space station is jointly operated by Russia, the United States, Europe, Japan and Canada. The first piece was put into orbit in 1998, and the outpost has been continuously manned* for almost 22 years. It is used to conduct scientific research in weightlessness and test technology for future trips to the Moon and Mars.
It typically has a crew of seven, who spend months at a time aboard the station as it orbits around 420 km above Earth. Three Russians, three Americans and an Italian are now on board.
The more than $100 billion complex is about as long as a football field and consists of two main sections, one run by Russia, the other by the United States and the other countries. It was not immediately clear what would be done on the Russian side of the complex to safely operate the space station once Moscow withdraws.
University of Chicago science historian Dr. Jordan Bimm said Russia’s announcement “creates a constellation* of station-keeping uncertainties that have no easy answers.”
“What will ‘leaving’ look like?” he said. “Will the last cosmonauts* just detach a Soyuz and return to Earth, leaving the Russian-built modules attached? Are they going to make them *unusable* before they leave? Will NASA and its international partners have to negotiate to buy them back and continue to use them? Can these modules even be maintained without Russian know-how? »
Borisov insisted his agency’s decision was unrelated to politics.
“There are no politics here, and I think there shouldn’t be,” he said.
“The International Space Station has enriched science with knowledge about Earth and the universe and brought us all together.
“Such projects should stay out of politics. I am sorry that our common space projects which are important for all humanity take on a political tinge. It’s wrong.”
But Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, said last month that Moscow could only participate in negotiations on a possible extension of the station’s operations if the United States lifted its sanctions against Russian space industries.
- counterparts: another person or thing with a similar function or role
- collaboration: working with others to achieve a common goal
- compromising: have a negative effect or impact, reducing the quality
- reside : when a place is inhabited or occupied
- constellation: group of things or people associated
- cosmonauts: russian astronauts
- inoperable: unusable, out of service
- to return: to be or become, to do something in a certain way
- predecessor: anyone who has held a job or office before the current person
- punishments: restrictions on activities, goods and services
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- How long has the ISS been continuously inhabited by astronauts?
- The ISS orbits how many kilometers above the Earth?
- How many astronauts are currently on board the ISS and from which countries?
- What caused the Russian space agency to lose an important source of income?
- Currently, the ISS is jointly managed by which countries?
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1. International teamwork
What are some of the implications of Russia’s non-involvement in the joint International Space Station project beyond 2024?
What will the world’s science and space agencies lose if Russia no longer contributes to this joint space project?
Do you think this decision has to do with politics?
Time: allow 25 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Critical and Creative Thinking
What other options could be explored to operate the space station without Russian input? Who might be able to participate in the project or help fund the Russian part of the deal?
Time: allow 10 minutes for this activity
Curriculum Links: Science, Critical and Creative Thinking
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