Late last month, it appeared that Russian participation in the International Space Station would end in 2024 — or so seemed to say the head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos Thirty years of unusual and successful cooperation would be coming to a close as the Ukraine war appeared to make longer-term commitments impossible, or undesirable for the Russian side.
But on a day when the Ukraine war raged for its 163rd day, when new Western sanctions were being put into place, when a Russian judge gave WNBA star Brittney Griner a provocative 9-year prison term for carrying small amounts of cannabis oil as she left Moscow, and just a short time after what seemed to be the Russian announcement of that 2024 departure, NASA officials held a commodious press conference with Roscosmos Executive Director for Human Space Programs Sergei Krikalev and others involved with the ISS.
Together they spoke yesterday (August 4) of expanding American-Russian cooperation on the mission and discounted talk of a 2024 Russian exit.
“We always talk of spaceflight as being team support,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s associate administrator of NASA’s Space Operations, which oversees the ISS. “And this news conference will exemplify how it is a team sport.”
She then discussed how and why a Russian cosmonaut would soon take a SpaceX flight to the ISS as part of a new program under which Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts can fly on each other’s ISS-and-homeward-bound spacecraft. The flight by veteran cosmonaut Anna Kikina will mark the first time a Russian has flown on an American spacecraft.
In the press conference, Krikalev then insisted that Russia had no intention of leaving the station in 2024 but rather would begin looking at the logistics of departing at that time — with an eye to leaving for their own planned space station in the years ahead.
“As far as the statement for 2024, perhaps something was lost in translation,” he said. “The statement actually said Russia will not pull out until after 2024. That may be in 2025, 2028 or 2030.” He said the timetable “will depend on the technical condition of the station.”
In the good-natured spirit of the press conference, Krikalev said that he was “happy to see so many faces I’ve known for many years.”