Russia will leave the International Space Station after 2024
Russia will leave the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own station. This is what the country's new space chief said on Tuesday, amid high tensions between Moscow and the West over the fighting in Ukraine.
The announcement, while not unexpected, calls into question the future of the 24-year-old space station. Experts say it would be extremely difficult - perhaps a nightmare, by one reckoning - to keep the station running without the Russians. NASA and its partners had hoped to continue operating until at least 2030.
'The decision to leave the station after 2024 has been made,' said Yuri Borisov, appointed this month to head Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. He added: 'I think by then we will have started to create a Russian orbital station.'
The space station has long been a symbol of international teamwork since the Cold War. It was an interaction in the name of science, but now it is one of the last areas of cooperation between the US and the Kremlin.
NASA officials said that no one had notified them directly, that is, officially, from their Russian counterparts about this matter. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson issued a statement saying the agency was "committed to the safe operation" of the space station through 2030 and continues to "build future capabilities to ensure our existence in Earth orbit." .
US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the announcement 'an unfortunate development' given the 'valuable professional cooperation that space agencies have had over the years'. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. is looking at the possibility of the Russians backing out of the decision.
Russian officials have long spoken of their desire to build their own space station, and their contract expires in 2024.