Less than a week after Russia threatened to stop its work on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA's chief said work on the orbiter will continue on with, or without, Russia's cooperation.
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, speaking to a group of reporters in Berlin on Monday, said no single nation is indispensable and the U.S. space agency fully intends to continue its work with the space station through at least 2024 as expected .
Bolden "was saying the five major partner countries that make up the International Space Station have an inter-related relationship," said a NASA spokesman in an email to Computerworld. "No single nation can end the ISS partnership."
While Bolden said that no one country can shutter the space station, Russia has been playing a critical role.
The U.S., along with other nations, have depended on Russia to ferry astronauts back and forth to the space station since NASA retired its fleet of space shuttles in 2011.
To lessen the partners' dependence on Russia, NASA is aiming to launch astronauts from U.S. soil again by 2017.
Bolden's remarks this week were another stage in the escalating conflict between the U.S. and Russia over their partnership to operate and maintain the space station, along with Europe, Japan and Canada.
The trouble started in April when NASA announced that because of Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine, the U.S. was scaling back its work with Russia's space agency. At the time of the announcement, NASA was working on a list of projects it might cancel or exclude Russia from participating in. The space agency has not specified what those projects are.
NASA, though, made it clear that it would work with the Russian Federation to continue the safe and continued operation of the space station.
Russia, however, turned up the heat.
Last week, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Russia plans to focus its attention on other projects after 2020. At the time, a NASA spokesman said they agency hadn't received any official word from Russia about this new plan.
"Space cooperation has been a hallmark of U.S.-Russia relations, including during the height of the Cold War, and most notably, in the past 13 consecutive years of continuous human presence on board the International Space Station," the agency said in a statement last week.
Bolden's words today are a direct, and stronger, message to the Russian Federation. NASA isn't showing any signs of backing down in the face of Russia's talk about pulling out of its partnership agreement.
For the U.S., the space station is an important stepping stone in NASA's path to getting astronauts into deep space. NASA officials have said they hope to use the time on the orbiter to gather more information on what would be needed to send astronauts into deep space.
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