NASA calls out Roscosmos over alleged war propaganda on the ISS

Russian astronauts posted images with flags from Ukrainian regions that Russia has overtaken.
Loukia Papadopoulos

Things have been contentious between the U.S. and Russia since the beginning of the war, and it has been affecting space relations. 

In the days and weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the chief of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, appeared to threaten to disconnect the Russian thruster module from the station — removing the ISS' primary means of periodically accelerating itself to keep from re-entering the atmosphere and burning up. 

Suspending ISS cooperation

Then, early in April, Russia announced it would suspend cooperation on the International Space Station (ISS). Now, NASA has called out Roscosmos over alleged war propaganda aboard the orbital station.

Gizmodo reported on Friday that the American space agency released the following statement:

"NASA strongly rebukes Russia using the International Space Station for political purposes to support its war against Ukraine, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating countries to advance science and develop technology for peaceful purposes."

The statement isn’t available online; it was, however, given as a response to a media question, a NASA spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. The statement was in response to a Monday Telegram post from Roscosmos of three cosmonauts holding up the flags of the Luhansk People’s Republic and the Donetsk People’s Republic, two Ukrainian regions that Russia has taken control over.

“We celebrate both on Earth and in space,” Roscosmos wrote on Telegram. “This is a long-awaited day that residents of the occupied areas of the Luhansk region have been waiting for eight years.”

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Not one to fear or avoid confrontation, Rogozin responded to the NASA statement. by saying on Telegram: “We will do in the Russian segment everything what we consider necessary and useful. And I advise Western partners to cancel their stupid sanctions."

NASA's statement was not very strongly-worded, perhaps because its cooperation with Russia on the ISS is still crucially important. It may be a little less so as of June since the US can now perform ISS reboots without Russia's help, thanks to the Cygnus spacecraft.

Other space leaders chime in

Still, the ongoing conversation captured the attention of other leaders in the space field.

Josef Aschbacher, director-general of the European Space Agency, took to Twitter to express his discontent with Russia, “It is unacceptable that the ISS becomes a platform to play out the political or humanitarian crises happening on the ground," he tweeted.

 “The purpose of the ISS is to conduct research and prepare us for deeper exploration. It must remain a symbol of peace and inspiration.”

Regardless of what anyone says, Russia seems intent on continuing its invasion of Ukraine. And it does not help matters that China continues to be a strong ally of the nation. 

Russia may be losing partners in the West, but China will not be abandoning the nation any time soon.


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