Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed, the news from Russian media is likely to be true, announcing the end of a partnership between Russia, the United States, and the rest of the International Space Station (ISS) partners.
The ISS was launched in 1998 by Russian and US space agencies, and to this day, is one of the most impressive and fruitful scientific projects. It’s also a rare case of partnership between Russia and the US, a partnership that seemed to work even as relations between the two countries deteriorated.
The ISS has been continuously occupied for over 20 years, but it was set to retire in 2024. The US Senate recently approved an extension to 2030, and it’s not impossible for it to be extended even more. But Russia, it seems, has had enough.
State media cited a senior government official as saying that Russia will withdraw from the ISS by 2025.
“We need a technical inspection at the station to avoid any risks in the event of an emergency,” Borisov’s office told the state-run TASS news agency. “We will make a decision based on the results and honestly notify our partners,” it added.
This likely has a lot to do with Russia’s recent partnership announcement with China. The two countries have reportedly reached an agreement to build a lunar station together, in a move that is speculated to have as much to do with politics as it does with science.
Russia was apparently furious with the US, which focuses on the moon and among its primary objectives, aims to land the first woman and a person of color on the Moon. Last year, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin dismissed the project as sort of space NATO, and rejected participation in the project:
“With the lunar project,” Rogozin told the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in July, “we are observing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that developed during cooperation on the ISS. They see their program not as international, but similar to NATO,” he added. “We are not interested in participating in such a project.”
Russia has previously turned down offers to join NASA’s plans to develop the Gateway, a small space station orbiting the Moon. Instead, Russia, whose space program has fallen behind in recent years due to underfunding and corruption scandals, teamed up with China, which is eager to emerge as a space power, after not being a partner for the ISS.