Well this looks like an interesting example of why we should invest in our own science infrastructure here at home; and also a behind the scenes tug of war pulling NASA into politics.
Citing Russia’s ongoing violations of Ukraine’s sovereign and territorial integrity, NASA told its officials today that the agency is suspending all contact with Russian government representatives. In an internal NASA memorandum obtained by The Verge, the agency said that the suspension includes travel to Russia, teleconferences, and visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities. NASA is even suspending the exchange of emails with Russian officials.
This is interesting because back in March when tensions were rising, and our Astronauts who rely on Russians to taxi-them to and from the International Space Station faced the possibility of being stuck in space, NASA was very nonpolitical:
NASA's Mike Hopkins, Russia's Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy are scheduled to fly back to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft Monday (March 10). NASA officials are confident that the landing will not be affected by the current political climate, however. U.S. and Russian relations have been strained in recent days due to the ongoing situation in the Ukraine. Crews on the space station have weathered political situations like this one before, Bolden said.The new policy still allows for ISS business, but to me that would only seem to be the case if Russia does not get pissed.
Currently, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft are the only vehicles that ferry NASA astronauts to space and back. NASA officials hope to change that in the future by using private spacecraft currently under development in the United States today. The U.S. space agency's Commercial Crew Program is designed to foster the growth of private spaceflight systems that may take astronauts into low-Earth orbit sometime in the near future.
"Right now, everything is normal in our [NASA's] relationship with the Russians," Bolden said. "I'm not an historian… but over the duration of the human spaceflight program, particularly over the last 15 years since International Space Station has been on orbit, it's very important to understand that it started with a partnership between the United States and Russia. That partnership in space remains intact and normal. We are continuing to monitor the situation. Our crews continue to train in Star City [Russia]."
Ongoing International Space Station activities are exempt from this suspension, however, as are meetings with other countries held outside of Russia that include the participation of Russian officials. The directives come directly from Michael O'Brien, the agency associate administrator for International and Interagency Relations.At least one NASA worker is not happy:
Earlier in March, NASA's chief executive, Charles Bolden, told reporters that "everything is normal in our relationship with Russia." But that relationship seems to have gone sour since then. Last week, Bolden used mounting tensions with Russia to blast Congress on its lack of space funding in a blog post, stating that the US' current reliance on Russian space missions was unacceptable.
"NASA's goals aren't political," said a NASA scientist who spoke to The Verge on condition of anonymity. "This is one of the first major actions I have heard of from the US government and it is to stop science and technology collaboration... You're telling me there is nothing better?"The statement from NASA:
Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.