After more than two decades of international cooperation in space research, Russia this week announced that it will retire from the International Space Station in 2025 and build and operate its floating laboratory that will be launched into orbit by 2030.
The decision to leave also comes at a time when relations between Russia and the United States are steadily deteriorating on multiple fronts as the two powers accuse each other of militarizing space.
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“If we are able to put it into orbit by 2030 according to our plans, that will be a great achievement,” the Interfax news agency quoted the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, as saying.
“The will is there to take a new step in the exploration of inhabited space around the world.”
What is the International Space Station doing?
A space station is basically a large spacecraft that will stay in low Earth orbit for a long time. It’s like a large space laboratory, where astronauts can go up and stay for weeks or months to conduct experiments in microgravity.
The Mir space station of the former Soviet Union, later run by Russia, was in service from 1986 to 2001. The International Space Station has been in space since 1998 and is known for exemplary cooperation between the five participating space agencies. Who underwent surgery. These are: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), Japan Space Exploration Agency (Japan), European Space Agency (Europe), Canadian Space Agency (Canada).
For more than 20 years since its launch, humans have been living and conducting scientific research on the $ 150 billion International Space Station under conditions of microgravity, enabling them to achieve research breakthroughs not possible on Earth.
According to NASA, 243 people from 19 countries have visited the International Space Station so far, and the floating laboratory has hosted more than 3,000 research and educational papers from researchers in 108 countries and territories, and conducted pioneering research in a variety of disciplines, including biology and anthropology. Physiology, Physics, Materials and Space Sciences.
The recent space rivalry between the United States and Russia
The Financial Times report said that Russia played a critical role in the success of the International Space Station, as other space agencies in the early years relied on advanced Russian modular space station building technology to build the space station.
Russia has also been indispensable for its Soyuz passenger car, which has served as the only means of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station since the United States withdrew from the space shuttle program in 2011. However, this dependence on Russia ended last year when the nations in it began to unite. Use the SpaceX system developed by Elon Musk.
This was a big hit for Roscosmos, as it marked the end of the funding it received from NASA to bring astronauts to the space station. According to the report, NASA spent $ 3.9 billion on Soyuz flights between 2011 and 2019.
Next year, the US is also expected to have a different domestic option from SpaceX as Boeing’s delayed Starliner capsule is expected to operate.
This development also comes at a time when relations between the West and Russia are continuing From bad to worse. The United States blamed the Kremlin for carrying out the SolarWinds hack and interfering in the 2020 elections. Last week, NATO criticized Russia after the Czech Republic accused it of being involved in a 2014 explosion in an arms depot.
Last year, the United States accused Russia of conducting a weapons test after a missile was launched from a Russian satellite. On the other hand, Russia blamed the United States for treating space as a “military theater”.
So what does Russia intend to do now?
Russia is now planning to build and operate its own space station, which aims to put it into orbit by 2030. According to a report by Interfax, the space module is being assembled by Energia and will cost at least $ 5 billion.
The station will orbit the Earth at a higher latitude, allowing it to better observe the polar regions, especially as Russia is planning to develop Sea Road in the Arctic While the ice melts.
Building a new station will also help Russia overcome the challenges astronauts currently face on the old International Space Station, such as conducting experiments and adapting the latest technology to hardware engineering that dates back more than two decades.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said: “We cannot risk people’s lives [of our cosmonauts]. The current situation regarding the structure and aging of the metal can lead to irreversible consequences – to disaster. We must not let that happen. “
However, leaving the International Space Station also means that Russian researchers will lose access to the laboratory, which has undergone more than 15 years of engineering and assembly work, and whose research potential is only now expected to really take off. The Financial Times report said that NASA has ruled out retiring from the International Space Station until at least 2028, and can continue to use it after that by upgrading major systems.
Borisov also said that Russia would run the space station on its own, but left the door open for other countries to join. last year, Russia turned down an American offer To be part of the Artemis program, it signed an agreement with China last month to jointly develop a lunar base.