ESA cancels interview with space station astronaut amid war in Ukraine

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The European Space Agency has canceled an upcoming live Q&A with an astronaut aboard the International Space Station due to concerns about the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer was scheduled to participate in an in-flight question-and-answer session on Thursday afternoon.

A German national, Dr. Maurer holds a doctorate in materials science and joined the current crew of ISS Expedition 66 on November 11. It is expected to remain there after US astronaut Mark Vande Hai and cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov return to Earth aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on March 30.

But the cancellation of Maurer’s interview is the latest sign that an operation as important as the return of American and Russian crews from the ISS to Earth could be jeopardized by international tensions caused by the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

While ESA and NASA were quick to say they would continue to cooperate with their Roscosmos counterparts after the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, the Russian space agency, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, suggested that his country could withdraw from the ISS program.

Over the weekend, Russia halted Soyuz launches and withdrew personnel from Europe’s spaceport in French Guiana, while ESA released a statement saying the space agency would work to implement the sanctions imposed on Russia by ESA member states, likely delaying the launch of the joint ESA this year. -Rover Roscosmos ExoMars.

Historic cooperation between Russia, ESA and the US on major ISS operations has held so far, with Russia boosting the space station to a higher altitude on Monday despite hints of Mr. Rogozin that Russia could interrupt flight operations of the ISS. Russia has been a partner in the space station program since 1993.

The March 30 Soyuz mission is still scheduled to start on Tuesday, as is a commercial satellite launch from the Roscosmos Baiknonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. scheduled for March 4. The March 4 launch, if it takes place, would place satellites in orbit for OneWeb, a satellite communications company partly owned by the UK government.

OneWeb did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

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