After more than two decades of international cooperation in the field of space research, Russia announced this week that it will withdraw from the International Space Station in 2025 and that it will build and operate its floating laboratory which will be put into orbit from ‘by 2030.
The decision to leave also comes at a time when relations between Russia and the United States are steadily deteriorating on several fronts, as the two powers mutually accuse each other of militarizing space.
The Interfax news agency quoted the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, as saying: “If in 2030 we could, according to our plans, put it into orbit, that would be a huge achievement.”
“The will is there to take a new step in the exploration of inhabited space on a global scale.”
What is the International Space Station doing?
A space station is essentially a large spacecraft that remains in low earth orbit for long periods of time. It’s like a big laboratory in space, allowing astronauts to come on board and stay for weeks or months to conduct experiments in microgravity.
The former Soviet Union’s Mir space station, which was later operated by Russia, operated from 1986 to 2001. The International Space Station has been in space since 1998 and is best known for the exemplary cooperation between the five participating space agencies. who were operated. They are: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), Japanese Space Exploration Agency (Japan), European Space Agency (Europe), Canadian Space Agency (Canada).
For more than 20 years since its launch, humans have continuously lived and conducted scientific investigations of the $ 150 billion International Space Station under microgravity conditions, enabling them to achieve research breakthroughs impossible on Earth. .
According to NASA, 243 people from 19 countries have so far visited the International Space Station, and the floating laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational articles from researchers from 108 countries and regions, and conducted cutting-edge research in various disciplines, including biology and anthropology. Physiology, physics, materials and space sciences.
The recent space rivalry between the United States and Russia
Russia played a pivotal role in the success of the International Space Station, as other space agencies relied on advanced Russian modular space station construction technology to build the space station in the early years, according to the report. from the Financial Times.
Russia has also been indispensable for its Soyuz passenger car, which has been the only means of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station since the United States withdrew from the space shuttle program in 2011. This reliance on l Regard to Russia, however, ended last year when the United States started there. Use the SpaceX system developed by Elon Musk.
This was a big blow for Roscosmos, as it meant the end of the funding received from NASA to take the astronauts to the space station. The report says that between 2011 and 2019, NASA spent $ 3.9 billion on Soyuz flights.
Next year, the United States is also expected to have another domestic option other than SpaceX, as Boeing’s delayed Starliner capsule is expected to be in service.
This development also comes at a time when relations between the West and Russia continue. Worse and worse. The United States blamed the Kremlin for carrying out the “SolarWinds” hack and interfering in the 2020 election. Russia received criticism from NATO last week after the Czech Republic accused it to be involved in an explosion in 2014 in a weapons depot.
Last year, the United States accused Russia of carrying out a weapons test after a missile was reportedly launched from a Russian satellite. In return, Russia criticized the United States for treating space as a “military theater”.
So what does Russia intend to do now?
Russia now plans to build and operate its own space station, which aims to put it into orbit by 2030. According to an Interfax report, its space unit is being assembled by Energia and is expected to cost at least $ 5. billions of dollars.
The station will orbit the Earth at a higher latitude, allowing it to better observe the polar regions, especially as Russia plans to expand Arctic sea route As the ice melts.
Building a new station will also help Russia overcome the challenges astronauts currently face on the old International Space Station, such as performing experiments and adapting the latest technology to older hardware architecture. two decades.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said: “We cannot risk lives. [of our cosmonauts]. The situation today associated with the structure and the metal is aging, can lead to irreversible consequences – to disaster. We must not let this happen. “
However, leaving the International Space Station also means that Russian researchers will lose access to the laboratory which has seen more than 15 years of engineering and assembly work to be built and whose research potential is only expected to really take off now. The Financial Times report said NASA has ruled out removing the International Space Station until at least 2028, and may continue to use it after that by upgrading major systems.
Borisov also said Russia will run the space station itself, but left the door open for other countries to participate. Last year, Russia turned down an American offer To be part of the Artemis program, he signed an agreement with China last month to jointly develop a moon base.