Russia reveals plans to withdraw from International Space Station
Image credit: Nasa
Russia will pull out of the International Space Station after 2024 and focus on building its own orbiting outpost, the country’s new space chief has confirmed.
Following China's example, Russia is planning on building its own orbital outpost once its commitments with the International Space Station (ISS) have been fulfilled.
"Of course, we will fulfil all our obligations to our partners but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made," Yuri Borisov, leader of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, said during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I think that by that time we will start forming a Russian orbiting station,” he added.
Although expected, the announcement throws into question the future of the 24-year-old space station, with experts saying it would be extremely difficult, and even a “nightmare”, to maintain the orbiting post without Russia's involvement.
The ISS has for many years symbolised international collaboration, and countries continue to work together on the project despite ongoing conflicts such as the war in Ukraine. However, in recent years the continuation of the project had been increasingly put in question due to differences of opinion between nations, as well as the wear and tear of the station itself, which Russia claimed was endangering astronauts.
Nasa had identified 2021 as the date on which the facility would be retired, to give way to the development of other, more modern space stations.
Russian space officials have long talked about their desire to launch the country’s own space station, similar to China's Tiangong project, which is currently under construction and has recently welcomed a scientific lab. Borisov’s predecessor, Dmitry Rogozin, said last month that Moscow could take part in negotiations about a possible extension of the station’s operations only if the US lifts its sanctions against Russian space industries.
Former Nasa astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent 340 continuous days aboard the International Space Station in 2015 and 2016, said that the Russian statement “could be just more bluster”, noting that “after 2024″ is vague and open-ended.
“I believe Russia will stay as long as they can afford to as without ISS they have no human spaceflight programme,” he said, adding that the design of the station makes it difficult but not impossible for the remaining nations to operate it should Russia withdraw.
The 100 billion dollar-plus complex, which is about as long as a football field, consists of two main sections, one run by Russia, the other by the US and other countries. Despite the announcement, Russian officials did not make the future of the Russia section clear.
Currently, the ISS hosts three Russians, three Americans and one Italian.
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