US and Russia keep space out of their land conflict

Satyen Mohapatra

The United States and Russia have definitely been magnanimous and broad-hearted when it comes to their relationship when it comes to outer space.

The recent signing of agreements to continue their mutual cooperation on space is a step in the right direction.

Despite a severe rift in their relationship after the war in Ukraine, they have shown sufficient maturity not to let this spoil their cooperation in space exploration.

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They made it clear that the differences of our planet must be kept here and that when we go to space we must go as a united team to meet all challenges jointly as representatives of the earth and of humanity in as a whole rather than as Americans, Russians or people of any other nation.

There are times when we need to put aside all our planetary differences and be united and that is by going into space. In outer space, we have only one identity: humans or, in the language of science fiction, “earthlings”.

In this kind of scenario, the European Space Agency’s decision to “sever” existing ties on space activities with Russia due to the ongoing war in Ukraine is “childish”.

Being clearly close to the theater of war and facing much of its weight much more directly than the United States, they definitely wanted Russia to pay its price one way or another. But then, whether severing ties of mutual collaboration on space is the right move is debatable.

The European Space Agency has decided in recent days that it will not collaborate with the Russian space agency Roscosmos on a series of lunar missions planned for the near future Luna 25, 26 and 27.

All three missions would begin later in 2022 with Luna 25. Luna 26 was to follow two years later and Luna 27 the following year.

Just a month ago, the European Space Agency suspended its joint mission to Mars, with the Russians postponing the launch of an ESA-built rover that was scheduled for September.

Fortunately, the International Space Station has still not been affected by the political fallout from the Ukrainian war and is operating where space agencies from several countries, including the United States, Russia and ESA, have an interest. Space is one of the few areas where, despite some expressed resentment, Russian scientists have also continued to collaborate with other scientists around the world, including Americans, Europeans and others.

The European Space Agency almost showed its impotence by pointing out that the Russian aggression against Ukraine and the sanctions put in place as a result of it had made it practically “impossible” for them to carry out the planned lunar flights with Russia. They said there had been a “fundamental” change in circumstances.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had just a day before the ESA decision announced that Russia would send an unmanned spacecraft to the surface of the moon via the Luna 25 mission later this year.

The US-Russian collaboration in space does not seem to have brought greater bonhomie between the two sides in other areas.

If America and Russia were able to save their ties in space, they could not save their cultural ties which had been severed.

The United States-Russia Intergovernmental Memorandum of Understanding on Principles of Cooperation in Culture, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education, and Media was signed in Moscow on September 2, 1998 .

The idea was essentially to carry out joint government and NGO projects and activities in the two countries and to make recommendations on specific aspects of the development of cultural cooperation. The areas of cooperation were broad, including various fields of culture, humanities, social sciences, education and media.

The Memorandum wanted to promote a better understanding of the culture of the other, in particular by organizing theatrical performances and art exhibitions.

This important agreement, which gave a lot of impetus to people-to-people exchanges, was officially canceled by Russia, which withdrew from the Memorandum following the Ukrainian conflict.

Following the conflict in Ukraine, the United States also began ending all direct communications and collaboration, research, programs, or projects with the Russian government. This particularly affected the world of museums and art in both countries.

Cultural and people-to-people interactions and exchanges strengthen knowledge about the two countries, which helps to forge stronger socio-political and economic ties.

The Memorandum provided for the exchange of scholarly publications, radio and television broadcasts, films and other audio-visual materials; organization of conferences, seminars and joint academic research, study of Russian and English languages ​​in the United States of America and the Russian Federation, respectively, exchanges and contacts between journalists, publishers and media associations, cooperation between associations of young people and women.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos and the American space agency NASA have agreed and will now fly their astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of “integrated flights”.

However, NASA was careful to point out that there will be “no exchange of funds” between the two countries. Of course, that would go against the whole principle of imposing economic sanctions on Russia for waging a war against Ukraine.

NASA spokesman Josh Finch clarified that “flying integrated crews ensure there are properly trained crew members aboard the station for essential maintenance and spacewalks.” .

The mutual agreement supports all future eventualities such as a problem with a crew spacecraft, serious crew medical issues, or an emergency on board the station that requires a crew and the vehicle. assigned to them return to Earth earlier than expected.

The first mission under the deal, involving NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin, is scheduled to take place in late September. The crew will use the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS.

Another mission, also scheduled for the fall, will pilot an American Crew Dragon spacecraft. The mission will likely involve the only woman on the active roster of Russian cosmonauts, Anna Kikina.

What is the consequence of the continued collaboration in the field of space in other fields, only the future will be able to tell. But the sooner a solution would be the best because one would not want relations to deteriorate in the era of the Cold War.


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