Russia debates staying on ISS after 2024 despite tensions •

    Russia is in internal discussions about continuing its participation in the International Space Station (ISS) beyond 2024, despite statements made earlier this summer that the country will withdraw from the station program by mid-decade.

    Sergei Krikalev, head of human space programs at Roscosmos, said on Monday that the Russian space agency is in talks to increase its “participation in [the] ISS program with our government and hope to be cleared to continue next year.”

    The turnaround comes just a few months after Roscosmos head Yuri Borisov announced Russia’s plans to leave the station after 2024 and build its own orbital station instead. The ISS is operated in collaboration between the space agencies of the US, Russia, Canada, Japan and Europe. America has pledged to operate the station until 2030.

    Krikalev admitted, however, that a new Russian station may not be ready by 2025. “We know it’s not going to happen badly. [quickly]so we’ll probably keep flying [on the ISS] until we have a new infrastructure that allows us to do continuous human presence in low Earth orbit,” he said.

    He made his comments during a NASA media briefing on the Crew-5 mission, which is scheduled for October 5. During that mission, SpaceX will launch a crew of four, including cosmonaut Anna Kikina, to the ISS. It will be the first time a cosmonaut will fly on a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, part of a recent astronaut exchange agreement between the US and Russia. US astronaut Francisco Rubio launched to the ISS last month aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft as part of the deal.

    “This type of exchange will increase [the] robustness of our program and we will continue this practice to make our program more reliable,” Krikalev said.

    While Russia and the US have collaborated on the ISS for decades, tensions between the two countries have increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Despite this tension, NASA’s ISS program manager Joel Montalbano said during the media briefing that US staff are still working in Russia with Roscosmos at Mission Control Center Moscow and other locations. He added that NASA is in regular contact with the US embassy in Moscow and that he does not expect any consequences for the next Soyuz launch with an American astronaut.

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