NASA has been challenged to come up with a way to use the International Space Station without relying on the Russians, as US lawmakers grow concerned that access to the orbiting research platform could be cut off amid sanction threats. Russia proposed effectively locking NASA out of the ISS earlier this week, after the US blocked high-tech exports as a sales scolding for allegedly supporting Crimean unrest.
"Our international space partnerships, including our partnership with Russia, have historically endured political division," Congressmen from the Science, Space, and Technology Committee wrote today. "But Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin's statements raise serious concerns about the strength of those partnerships."
Rogozin's comments included the warning that, while the Russians would be able to continue to use the ISS without the help of the US, the converse was not true. Since the deprecation of the Space Shuttle program, NASA has been reliant on - and paying millions for - Russian transportation from Earth to the ISS.
Although Rogozin only threatened to ban sales of rockets to the US if they were to be used to launch military satellites, he also suggested that Russia would not agree to NASA's proposal to extend the lifespan of the space station from 2020, its current shut-down date, to 2024.
"We are very concerned about continuing to develop high-tech projects with such an unreliable partner as the United States," Rogozin told media earlier this week, "which politicizes everything."
While NASA has previously said that it is confident in its relationship with Roscosmos, its equivalent in Russia, the committee isn't so sure. It's requested a list of possible implications if the partnership sours, and a run-down of how NASA could keep its work on the ISS going even if it has to do it alone.
SOURCE Committee on Science