The head of NASA, Charles Bolden, denied implications by Russian space program administrators that the nation could deny the United States access to the International Space Station and shut it down. No partner in the international venture is “indispensable,” Bolden told reporters in Berlin.
The Associated Press reports that Bolden made the remarks during a trip to Berlin’s annual air show, as reporters asked about increasing tensions between Russia and the United States. “There is no single partner that can terminate the international space station,” he told reporters, a week after the Russian government refused an extension of the space program beyond 2020, when the program is set to expire.
Russia has said it will deny access to the Space Station for the United States as a form of sanction in response to the sanctions on the Russian government related to the crisis in Ukraine. That decision followed a remark by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin that the United States could use a “trampoline” to get to the Space Station if it did not want aid from the Russian space program.
Currently, the only way to reach the Space Station is to use Russia’s Soyuz capsules, though the station itself is populated by Japanese, Canadian, and other European astronauts. NASA had previously suspended its ties with Russia on space development with the exception of the Space Station.
The AP notes that despite the flexibility Bolden exhibited in answering that all the partners at the International Space Station are equally necessary for the program to work, reentering space negotiations with China was rigidly out of the question. “There is nothing that I see in the tea leaves that says our relationship is going to change,” he said of China, with which NASA has no programs planned.
Incidentally, the Moscow Times reported this week that Russia had begun new plans to work with China on space programs. Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin met with Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Wang Yang in Beijing as part of a larger visit by Russia’s top politicians to the Chinese capital. Rogozin announced that he had signed “a protocol on establishing a control group for the implementation of eight strategic projects,” including work involving space travel. The paper notes that many of these projects currently under consideration could replace the International Space Station, which would allow Russia to work with China on a similar project without collaborating with many of the Western powers that have had strained relations with Russia since its invasion of Ukraine.