The head of America’s space agency, Bill Nelson, has lauded the benefits of his country’s historic partnership with Russia, which has allowed generations of astronauts and cosmonauts to step beyond the Earth’s atmosphere together.
The official paid tribute to the long-standing arrangement in an interview published by Politico on Thursday, days after his Russian counterpart, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, said that collaboration could come to an end if Washington didn’t lift the sanctions on its space program.
“Our politics have become very strained,” Nelson acknowledged, “but here is the one area that we have been able to cooperate. It’s been [like that] ever since 1975, when an American spacecraft in the middle of the Cold War rendezvoused and docked with a Russian spacecraft, and the crews lived together for nine days. Ever since, we have been cooperating. We have extraordinary cooperation.”
He added that he had personally told Rogozin that “this is unique – the kind of relationship where we can be at peace cooperating with each other, no matter what our rivalries are on terra firma.” Nelson also argued that Russia was unlikely to pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) anytime soon, and, indeed, was working on new technology to support missions there.
Responding in a statement later that day, Rogozin said, “We are not against co-operation.” However, he added, “The only way to get there is to lift sanctions against Roscosmos enterprises.”
In December, Moscow’s space chief hit out at “stupid” and “illegal” punitive measures imposed by Washington against its organizations, which, he said, “jeopardize the further implementation of the International Space Station program.” Rogozin noted that the Central Research Institute of Machine Building – one of the sanctioned companies – actually includes the ISS mission control center.
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