NASA has ceased working with the Russian government over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and Crimea.
The Verge reports that NASA is suspending all contact with Russian government officials. This ban extends to teleconferences, visits by Russian government officials to NASA facilities, email exchanges with Russian officials, and travel to Russia.
NASA’s communications with Russia about their support for the two American astronauts currently on the International Space Station are exempt. That includes organisation and completion of a scheduled Soyuz capsule launch on April 9.
Astronaut Reid Wiseman is scheduled to head to the ISS on the Russian Soyuz capsule, which is planned to launch on May 28. He’s travelling with Russian Cosmonaut Maksim Viktorovich Surayev and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst.
A NASA scientist who spoke to The Verge on the condition of anonymity slammed the move: “NASA’s goals aren’t political. This is one of the first major actions I have heard of from the US government and it is to stop Science and Technology collaboration. … You’re telling me there is nothing better?”
Universe Today provided this insight about how the move could affect the U.S. space program:
Virtually every aspect of the manned and unmanned US space program — including NASA, other government agencies, private aerospace companys and crucially important US national security payloads — are highly dependent on Russian & Ukrainian rocketry and are therefore potentially at risk amidst the current Crimea crisis.
Global Post noted just last month that the U.S. “relies heavily on Russia to furnish the engines that power rockets that deliver both military and civil payloads into space,” including weather satellites, GPS systems for cars and mobile phones, and systems that allow ATMs to function.
Here’s the internal memo from NASA that explains the cease of communication with Russia:
Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance. If desired, our office will assist in communication with Russian entities regarding this suspension of activities. Specific questions regarding the implementation of this guidance can be directed to Ms. Meredith McKay, 202.358.1240 or [email protected], in our office.
We remain in close contact with the Department of State and other U.S. Government departments and agencies. If the situation changes, further guidance will be disseminated.
Michael F. O’Brien
Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations
More to come…
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