The invasion of Ukraine has taken a toll on Russia’s ongoing partnerships with the US and Europe in space. Yesterday, the European Space Agency announced it was completely ending its collaboration with its Russian counterpart on an upcoming mission to Mars, prompting Roscosmos to threaten access to Europe’s new robotic arm.
ESA and Russia were due to launch a lander and rover to Mars in September as part of the ExoMars mission, but the ESA Council announced yesterday that it would no longer be working with Russia on the mission due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it said ESA Director General Josef Aschbacher wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
The space agency had released a expression In early February, he condemned the war and said he was “assessing the implications for each of our ongoing programs conducted in cooperation with Russia’s state space agency, Roskosmos.” ESA has suspended the ExoMars mission, but the Council’s recent decision declared that ESA is officially ending its partnership with the Russian Space Agency on the Mars mission. April, ESA announced that it will not participate in Russia’s forthcoming Luna missions to the moon, and for the same reasons.
Shortly after the Council’s decision was published, Roscosmos Director Dmitry Rogozin predictably went through with his opposition to the ESA telegram Side. “Did this head of the European Space Agency think how many thousands of scientists and engineers in Europe and Russia he crossed out with his decision?” Rogozin wrote. “Is he ready to stand trial for sabotaging a joint Mars mission?” He added that Roscosmos is working on the Kazakh Lander built by Russia for the ExoMars mission and transported to Italy in 2019 for launch preparation.
Rogozin then “ordered” Roscosmos cosmonauts aboard the ISS to stop working on the ISS European robotic arm attached to the Russian orbital segment of the space station and tells ESA’s Aschbacher to “fly into space” and do it himself. Launched in July 2021, the 37-foot arm is designed to function outside the Russian side of the space station. But the robotic arm is not fully installed yet; Cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev and Denis Matveev from Roscosmos conducted a Spacewalk in April to begin giant arm installation. Artemyev is scheduled for another spacewalk on July 21 alongside ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti to help complete installation work. That upcoming spacewalk is now in doubt, but it’s not clear if the cosmonauts will comply with Rogozin’s “order.” The future of the ExoMars mission is also in doubt, but Aschbacher said ESA will have more to say on the matter during a July 20 media briefing.
Tensions between Russia and its ISS partners have been running high lately. The Russian Space Agency recently Posted Photos on his official Telegram channel from Three cosmonauts holding flags of Russian-backed regions in Ukraine in blatant support of the ongoing invasion. As a result, NASA issued a rare statement condemning the use of the orbital outpost as a site for political propaganda.
In February US President Joe Biden explained that the international sanctions imposed on Russia would also affect its space program, stating that sanctions “would adversely affect their aerospace industry”. Russia can’t afford to lose both its European and US counterparts, so the head of Roscosmos may need to calm down and ensure operations aboard the orbiting space station run smoothly.
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