- Russia could leave the International Space Station as early as 2025, the Deputy Prime Minister said.
- Roscosmos, the Russian NASA equivalent, wants to launch its own space station by 2030.
- Such a move could end a decades-long relationship in space that has survived the political tensions on Earth.
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Russia could leave the International Space Station to focus on its ambition to launch its own space station by 2030, Russian officials said.
Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov raised the prospect of Russia’s departure in a Sunday interview with state television, reported in English by the TASS news line.
Per TASS, Borisov had not pledged to leave, but noted that Russia’s existing pledge will not run until the end of 2024 and that Russia was not happy with the current state of the ISS.
Russia has been involved with the ISS since its launch in 1998, contributing equipment and astronauts. The ISS is the only space station with people on board.
A few days later, Wednesday, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos spoke of an independent Russian space station that would be operational in 2030, according to the Guardian and the Financial Times.
The first module for the Russian space station will be ready by 2025, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.
The agency is awaiting President Vladimir Putin’s final approval to proceed. The reports in the Russian media differ on the likelihood that this will happen.
In 2020, the ISS celebrated 20 years of continuous human occupation, although engineers gave it a life expectancy of 15 years. The space station is starting to show signs of aging, with broken toilets and air leaks.
A Russian cosmonaut who returned to Earth from the space station on April 17 said there is no reason to leave the ISS.
“The condition of the station is pretty good,” said Sergei Ryzhikov in an interview.
The continuation of the collaboration beyond 2024 will depend on a technical inspection, Rogozin said at a news conference.
He pushed back the suggestion that a Russian departure would take place abruptly. “We are talking about our phasing out of this project,” he said on Facebook in response to a user’s comment, TASS reported.
If it happens, a Russian departure would blow decades of US-Russia cooperation in space. Russia and the US have been working with other partners to keep the space station operational since 1998.
It has been a bastion of international cooperation between the two countries since their collaboration on the Apollo Soyuz test project in the 1970s.
The separation between the two countries’ space programs has grown in recent years.
Earlier this year, Russia signed a deal with China to build a space station on the moon, after it rejected NASA’s plan to return to the moon.
Rogozin had previously criticized the US plan as being too “US-centric” and a “departure of our US partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that developed while working on the ISS,” reported The Verge.
China and Russia also refused to sign the Artemis Accords, a US-signed agreement that aims to regulate the rules for space exploration.