The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has confirmed that it has no plans to cut cooperation with Russia in manned expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS). Sean Fuller, a senior NASA official, emphasized the benefits of utilizing each other’s spacecraft for the safety and success of space exploration.
In an interview with TASS at the 74th International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan, Fuller, who previously headed NASA’s Human Space Flight Program office in Moscow, stated that he sees no reason for astronauts to stop using the Russian Soyuz spaceships. NASA and the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, have an agreement that allows them to use each other’s capsules. Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, the US has relied on Russian Soyuz flights to transport crews to and from the ISS.
Fuller highlighted the importance of the US-Russian cooperation, particularly in the event of an emergency requiring immediate evacuation from the ISS. In such cases, the expedition members can use whichever spacecraft is available to return home safely.
After the piloted Crew Dragon spacecraft received clearance for manned missions in 2020, the two space agencies adopted a ride-sharing scheme. This arrangement was recently renewed in July 2022, despite strained relations between Moscow and Washington due to the Ukraine conflict.
Currently, the SpaceX Endurance capsule is in orbit after delivering four passengers, including Russia’s Konstantin Borisov, to the ISS in late August. This mission marks the third journey for the reusable capsule. Meanwhile, the Soyuz MS-23 spacecraft recently returned ISS crew members, including astronaut Loral O’Hara, back to Earth in late September.
Fuller, now serving as NASA’s International Partner Manager for the Gateway Program, discussed the agency’s plans to build a space station orbiting the Moon to facilitate future missions beyond Earth’s immediate vicinity.
Overall, NASA’s commitment to collaboration with Russia in manned expeditions demonstrates the shared understanding of the mutual benefits and safety enhancements that arise from utilizing each other’s spacecraft. Despite geopolitical tensions, the partnership between the two space agencies continues to thrive, ensuring the sustained success of space exploration endeavors.