Russia announced Tuesday that the country will no longer participate in the International Space Station. Starting in 2024, Russia will focus on developing its own space station, potentially to compete with NASA’s future lunar space station, Roscosmos CEO Yury Boriso announced.
Now, we should take this news with a grain of salt as the folks running Roscosmos (Russia’s version of NASA) are also prone to making big earth-shattering announcements designed to rile up their western partners and signal their loyalty to their big fascist daddy Vladimir Putin. Back in 2014, Russia announced it would pull out of the ISS by 2020 because of, you guessed it, tensions over an invasion of Ukraine. That obviously didn’t happen. Then last year, Roscosmos blamed a strange drill hole in the Soyuz MS-09 module on an astronaut with zero evidence. When the current war in Ukraine was just kicking off, Russia’s Director General of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, made several straight-out threats against the ISS and the astronauts on board. Though thankfully Russia’s top space official didn’t follow through. NASA also says it will de-orbit the ISS by 2031, so it’s not like the station will be derelict without Cosmonauts for very long.
Plus, earlier this month, NASA and Roscomos cut a deal where astronauts can continue hitching a ride on Soyuz capsules and cosmonauts will be able to ride in SpaceX rockets beginning this fall, USA Today reports. This latest announcement doesn’t seem like it will affect this agreement. Boriso also announced that Russia would “...comply with all our commitments to our partners,” which is a relief considering Russian technology makes up several key components to the functionality of the ISS.
Things have been chilly for years between Roscosmos and NASA, but even during the height of the Cold War, the two agencies have worked together towards the advancement of all humans to survive in space since the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz project. It can be a struggle, finding things that give one hope for humanity in international politics. A mixture of rare optimism and childhood nostalgia made me think the ISS was one of them. I wasn’t all that aware during the Cold War, but I was during its end and the amount of excitement and relief can not be overstated. The ISS was celebrated as a concrete example of both countries potential.
Now, it seems, a dream that has been on life support for a while might finally be stumbling across its bleak ending, and I fear we will all be poorer for it. Now we have NASA’s lunar Gateway project and Russia and China’s rumored competing Lunar orbiter to look forward to. Two separate projects aiming for the same goal, only now it’s a nationalistic endeavor rather than a joint venture for all of humanity. What could we accomplish if we all worked together? We won’t know now, and that is a lost future worth mourning today.