SPACE HAVEN: US and Russian astronauts aboard ISS isolated as crisis unfolds below them
According to the former head of the National Space Council, the four US astronauts and two Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station have been 'largely isolated' from the tensions that have risen due to the Russian invasion in Ukraine. Fortunately, the tensions between the United States and Russia over Ukraine on planet Earth have not translated into hostilities in outer space.
Scott Pace, who was the executive secretary of Trump's administration of the space council, has backed this isolation from political events. Four NASA astronauts, two Russian cosmonauts, and one European astronaut are on the space station currently.
Pace, who is currently the director of the Space Policy Institute at the George Washington University said, "They can't operate without us, we can't operate without them so it's truly an international partnership." He also noted that the space station "exists in a larger context of U.S.-Russia relations." The former space council official also added, "Given our mutual dependence, however, and given the good working relationship we have at the technical level, I don't see anything happening to the station in the near term, despite events on Earth. It´s possible to imagine a break with Russia that would endanger the space station, but that would be at the level of dropping diplomatic relations."
He further said, "That would be something that would be an utterly last resort so I don´t really see that happening unless there is a wider military confrontation." While Ukraine urged it's citizens to leave Russia, Russia began evacuating the embassy in Kiev on Wednesday. Additionally, Russian lawmakers authorized President Putin to use the military force outside of his country. In addition to President Joe Biden, other European leaders responded by slamming sanctions on Russian oligarchs and banks. This signifies an ever bigger confrontation may be just around the corner.
Late on Wednesday night, February 23, Putin unleashed 150,000 troops on three sides of Ukraine. Concerns have been raised in Congress on how this would impact the International Space Station's mission with astronauts from countries hostile to each other. The lawmakers have specified that space cooperations shall be exempted from previous sanctions and it looks like they plan to make a similar argument while the administration considers the next steps over the Ukraine invasion.
Five space agencies from 15 countries, includin Canada, Japan, Russia, and the US make up the international partnership at the space station. This was launched 24 years ago in 1998 and has morphed into a complex that is nearly as large as a football field. There are eight miles of electrical wiring, an acre of solar panels, and three high-tech labs in the space station orbiting Earth.