The head of Russia’s space agency said Tuesday the country plans to pull out of the International Space Station, jeopardizing the decades-long tradition of space collaboration mostly transcending earthly politics.
The International Space Station is seen over Earth.
Yuri Borisov, the newly installed chief of Roscosmos, told Russian President Vladimir Putin the agency will quit the ISS after 2024, state-run news agencies TASS and RIA Novosti reported.
The ISS has been in orbit for more than two decades and is a joint partnership between Roscosmos, NASA and the Canadian, European and Japanese space agencies.
Borisov said Russia plans to instead focus on the development of an orbital station of its own, a project that’s operated on the fringes for years but has come to the forefront as Russia protests Western sanctions in light of its invasion of Ukraine.
However, Robyn Gatens, director of NASA’s ISS program, told reporters Roscosmos hasn’t told NASA about any change of plans and she instead sees Borisov’s comments as a look at what Russia’s planning for after the ISS ceases operations in 2030.
The ISS exit plans came as a relative surprise given Roscosmos and NASA struck a deal earlier this month allowing astronauts from each agency to ride to and from the ISS on each other’s spacecraft.
Dmitry Rogozin, who oversaw Roscosmos until July 15 when Borisov replaced him, threatened to pull Russia out of the ISS in April, citing sanctions placed on Russia by its Western partners in space. However, Rogozin’s history of making outlandish threats against the West, including warning NATO countries about facing nuclear destruction, made quitting the ISS seem like an empty promise. Borisov suggested finality on Russia leaving the ISS, saying Tuesday: “The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made.”
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