Russia says NASA space station exits far less than previously reported

This photo is taken by the Expedition 56 crew from the Soyuz spacecraft on October 4, 2018, after the International Space Station (ISS) has undocked. Manual by NASA/Roscosmos/REUTERS/File Photo

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WASHINGTON, July 27 (Reuters) – Russian space officials have told their American counterparts that they want to fly their astronauts to the International Space Station at least until their own orbital outpost is built, a senior NASA official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed director general of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, surprised NASA on Tuesday by announcing that Moscow intends to end the long-standing space station partnership “after 2024.” read more

Kathy Lueders, NASA’s head of space operations, told the U.S. space agency on Tuesday that Russian officials wanted to stay in partnership with Roscosmos as it works to name its planned orbital outpost ROSS.

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“We haven’t changed anything at any mission level,” Luders told Reuters, adding that NASA’s relations with Roscosmos would remain “as usual.”

The space station, a science laboratory the size of a football field and orbiting about 250 miles (400 km) above Earth, has been continuously occupied for more than two decades under a US-Russia-led partnership that includes Canada, Japan and others. 11 European countries.

It provides one of the last vestiges of cooperation between the US and Russia, although its fate has been in question since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

A formal agreement to extend Russia’s participation beyond 2024 has yet to be made. NASA, Russia and the station’s other partners plan to discuss the possibility of extending each other’s presence at the lab until 2030 during a special meeting Friday of the board that oversees the station’s management, Luders said.

Roscosmos published an interview on its website on Wednesday with Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the space station’s Russian wing, who was quoted as saying that Russia should remain on the station until ROSS is operational.

“Of course, we need to continue operating the ISS until we create a more or less reliable backstop to ROSS,” Solovyov said. “We have to take into account that if we stop using drones for years, it will be very difficult to recover what has been achieved.”

The American and Russian sections of the space station were purposely built to be interwoven and technologically interdependent.

(This story corrects headline to “much less immediate series than previously indicated,” not “sticking with space station until at least 2028”; corrects first sentence to “at least until own outpost is built in orbit.” Orbital outpost built in 2028.)

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Report by Joey Rowlett; Editing by Jonathan Otis and Will Dunham

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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