By: April Carson
The United States and Russia have reached an agreement to exchange astronauts on the International Space Station, suggesting a thaw in relations between the countries over the conflict in Ukraine that has forced the removal of a warlike Russian space program leader.
On Friday, the US space agency, NASA, and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, jointly announced integrated trips. After announcing that President Vladimir Putin had replaced Dmitry Rogozin with Yuri Borisov, Russia's deputy prime minister and a former defense minister, Moscow revealed on Sunday that he had been ousted by Putin.
The decision to oust Rogozin, who had been in charge of the Russian space program since May 2013 and is a close ally of Putin, came as a surprise. It was not immediately clear why Putin removed him.
Borisov, who is seen as more pragmatic than his predecessor, said Russia was ready to resume flights to the ISS. "We are ready to fulfill our obligations under the international space station program," he said.
It is not clear how soon the agreement between NASA and Roscosmos will lead to astronauts being exchanged. But it is a significant step forward for relations between the United States and Russia, which have been strained over the conflict in Ukraine and Russia's annexation of Crimea.
In September, US astronaut Frank Rubio will fly aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan with cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin; while Anna Kikina, the only active female cosmonaut, will be on board with two Americans and a Japanese astronaut on SpaceX's Crew Dragon mission from Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
The agreement between the US and Russia was confirmed by statements from both space agencies. Rogozin's dismissal, however, was not mentioned in any of them. His anti-western sentiments, which grew more apparent after Russia's 24 February invasion of Ukraine, were seen as a deterrent to an amicable continuation of a decades-long collaboration in space between the nations.
In a recent speech, he threatened to deorbit the space station and crash it into the United States or Europe, as well as an allegation that Elon Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX, was utilizing his satellites to provide military communication services to "fascist forces" in Ukraine.
According to a tweet published by Elon Musk in May, Rogozin claimed that Musk “will be held accountable like an adult, no matter how much you'll play the fool.” In response, Musk wrote: "It's been good knowing you if I die in strange circumstances."
The United States and Russia have been collaborating in space for over 50 years, including on the International Space Station (ISS). However, relations between the two countries have deteriorated in recent years, culminating in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) in 2019.
In July, he went on Twitter to blame GRU agents for the assassination of his friend Boris Berezovsky. Other than that, it's not clear who was behind what. However, a few months later, Rogozin accused Russian military intelligence (GRU) agents of killing his friend Boris Berezovsky.
In response to the Russian's claim that his country could operate alone in space, NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot responded with a tweet stating that Russia's space program "won't be worth a damn" without international partners.
Kelly called him a “child,” and Rogozin, who made the remarks in response to the cancellation of Russian engines sales to the US in retaliation for Ukraine sanctions, then launched a barrage of insults at him, calling him "a moron."
On Friday, Kelly fired another barb at Rogozin after his firing. “Hey Dimon,” wrote Kelly, using a diminutive version of his first name to which the Russian has previously objected. “I hear Tasty and That's It might be hiring,” in response to the renaming of McDonald's in Russia following the fast food company withdrew because of the Ukraine conflict.
Meanwhile, according to the administrator of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Jim Bridenstine, Russian threats against America are a "distraction" from developing better relations between both nations. While Russia continues to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons, NASA has worked diligently with other senior Roscosmos officials in order to rebuild ties that were previously maintained through cosmonauts flying US rockets to the space station until 2011.
Despite all of this, we may work with our Russian partners and colleagues in space. “Despite all of that," said NASA administrator and former space shuttle astronaut John H. Glenn in March, "we can have cooperation with our Russian friends and coworkers up in space."
“The professional tie between astronauts and cosmonauts hasn't missed a beat. We have a collaboration going on in the civilian space program, as you can see.”
Roscosmos announced today that integrated flights are intended to “improve the exploration of outer space for peaceful purposes.”
The signed document read, “The agreement will be beneficial to both Russia and the United States, as well as the ISS program's development of cooperation.”
“Integrated crews improve safety by ensuring that there are properly trained crew members on the station for critical maintenance and spacewalks,” according to Nasa.
The US government in February unveiled a "transition plan" for the closure of the space station, which has been operational since 1998. It will be de-orbited and destroyed on purpose at the end of 2030, with a successful landing in the Pacific.
But with the end of the US space shuttle program in 2011, Russia has had a monopoly on ISS crew transport. The Soyuz spacecraft is the only currently operational vehicle able to ferry astronauts to the orbiting outpost.
NASA pays Russia more than $80 million per seat for astronaut transport on Soyuz vehicles. In total, over the next decade, NASA will have paid Russia $3.9 billion for 55 seats through 2028.
But the future of Rogozin, who has hit out at both Washington and Moscow in recent days, is now uncertain. According to sources, a former Nato ambassador still has the confidence of Putin and speculation abounds that he will go to Ukraine.
According to Meduza, a Latvian-based online media outlet covering Russian issues, he is being considered for an appointment as the head of Russia's new territory.
In an apparent reference to this, Rogozin tweeted on Sunday: "I am proud of the results of my work. I am sure that everything we have done will be continued."
The Kremlin on Friday denied the rumors, but RIA Novosti quoted Russia's government news agency, which said that Rogozin will be given "a new position."
Rogozin has been a thorn in the side of both Washington and Moscow in recent years. He was sanctioned by the US and EU over his role in Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 and has been accused of orchestrating a campaign of disinformation about NATO.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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