Exasperated NASA Cuts Contact With Russia Space Reps: Moscow, We Have A Problem
One of the few remaining ties between the United States and Russia has reached its breaking point. NASA is suspending contact with Russian government reps, the agency announced Wednesday, as a result of the conflict in Ukraine. The only exception is the International Space Station, where they will continue to work together. It's been noted by NASA administrator Charles Bolder that Russians and Americans are actually getting along pretty well up there.
In a statement Wednesday, the U.S. Space Agency cited "Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity," as the primary reason for cutting ties. In short, NASA's none too happy about the Crimea takeover. The organization also says "NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil," and ending the country's reliance on Russia.
Since the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle program in 2011, America has depended on the Federation to send its astronauts into the great unknown. Just last month, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched a U.S-Russia crew toward the ISS. Despite high tension between the two governments, the space program seemed to be a partnership unaffected by politics. In early March, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden even said "everything is normal in our relationship with the Russians," according to CBS.
Now, however, things seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. In a leaked internal NASA memo, the agency said suspension would include travel to Russia, visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities, teleconferences, and even the exchange of emails. Giving a 2017 goal for American launches, an official statement continued:
The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.
President Obama has imposed sanctions on Russia after the annexation of Crimea, to which Putin responded with his own. Increasing threats of more penalties haven't seemed to deter the increasing military presence on Ukrainian borders.
On Wednesday, NATO's General Philip M. Breedlove warned that the 40,000 Russia troops could attack on 12 hours notice, with "well-equipped" forces ready to go.