Russia’s space agency chief has warned the US that the slew of sanctions imposed on Moscow can “destroy our cooperation” on the International Space Station (ISS) and asked Washington if it wants to threaten India and China with the “possibility of a 500-tonne structure falling” on them.
Russia and the US are the major partners in the ISS programme, which also includes Canada, Japan and several European nations like France, Italy and Spain.
The US and its allies have decided to block assets of four large Russian banks, impose export controls and sanction oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin after he ordered a “special military operation” against Ukraine on Thursday.
Following US President Joe Biden’s announcement of new sanctions on Thursday that “will degrade” Russia’s “aerospace industry, including their space programme”, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin on Friday tweeted that ISS orbit and location in space are controlled by Russian engines, the CNN reported.
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“If you block cooperation with us, who will save the International Space Station (ISS) from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or…Europe?” Rogozin tweeted in Russian.
He said there is also the “possibility of a 500-tonne structure falling on India and China”.
“Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, therefore all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?,” the Russian space agency chief asked.
One of his tweets read, “Do you want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS?,” according to New York-based astronomy news website space.com.
The Russian segment of the ISS is responsible for guidance, navigation and control for the entire complex. And Russian Progress cargo craft provide periodic orbit-raising boosts for the ISS, to ensure that it doesn’t sink too low into Earth’s atmosphere, it said.
NASA has not responded directly to Rogozin’s remarks, but it notes that the US space agency “continues working with Roscosmos and our other international partners in Canada, Europe, and Japan to maintain safe and continuous ISS operations”, the CNN report said on Friday.
There are currently four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts and one European astronaut living and working onboard the orbiting outpost, it said.