What do Russia’s Letters to NASA say about its withdrawal from the ISS?

Russia’s Letters to NASA

Russia’s letters to NASA reveal that it is halting its cooperation with the ISS. But, why? Russia says it will end cooperation with other nations on the International Space Station (ISS) until the sanctions put on the country are lifted. Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, announced in a thread on Twitter that the “restoration of normal relations between partners” on the ISS and other projects is only possible with the “complete and unconditional lifting of illegal sanctions.”


Russia’s Letters to NASA


In translated versions of his tweets, Rogozin says he appealed the sanctions in Russia’s letters to NASA, the European Space Agency, as well as the Canadian Space Agency. Rogozin also posted images of what appears to be each country’s response.

While NASA didn’t directly confirm the letter’s authenticity, the agency did acknowledge Rogozin’s comments and maintains that the ISS is still operating with Roscosmos’ input. “NASA is aware of recent comments regarding the International Space Station. U.S. sanctions and export control measures continue to allow U.S.-Russia civil space cooperation on the space station,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson’s statement reads.

The CSA’s letter has a similar response to Rogozin’s request, stating, “I can assure you that Canada continues to support the ISS program, and is dedicated to its safe and successful operations.” Meanwhile, ESA head Josef Aschbacher replied by saying he’ll pass on Rogozin’s request to the agency’s member states for assessment.


Other Aspects of the Letters 


Rogozin reacted strongly to the sanctions imposed by President Joe Biden in February, making an insinuation that the space station could come crashing down to Earth without Russia’s involvement. In Russia’s letters to NASA, Russia’s withdrawal from the station has the potential to do real harm, as NASA relies on Russia to maintain the ISS’s position and orientation in space.

Roscosmos has an agreement with NASA to cooperate on the ISS through 2024. Last year, the Biden administration announced plans to extend the ISS program until 2030, which Russia hasn’t signed on with yet. NASA said Russia was “moving toward” extending its cooperation, but Rogozin’s statements make this seem unlikely. Earlier this week, NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei safely returned to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket with two cosmonauts. Prior to his arrival, there had been concerns about his return home amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, but Roscosmos maintained that it would not strand Vande Hei on the ISS.


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