Russian Aggression Puts American Astronaut in Danger

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Russia threatened to leave an American astronaut in space as tensions between the two countries continue intensifying over the Ukraine war.

This puts international space cooperation in danger.

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Russia to Abandon American Astronaut in Space

The astronaut who is in danger of being abandoned is Mark Vande Hei; he is supposed to land in Kazakhstan in three weeks on a Russian spacecraft.

As he looks forward to ending his 355 days journey in space, he is facing an unprecedented challenge, which can put his life at risk.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States launched a series of sanctions against the Cold War foe to undermine the economy of the country.

While announcing sanctions on the Russian high-tech industry, Biden noted it will impact Russia’s “aerospace industry.” 

However, NASA responded it is not planning any changes in the US Russian cooperation regime in space, adding the agency will continue supporting the ongoing operations.

The head of Russia’s Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin, who is also a close ally of Russian President Vladamir Putin, responded to Biden’s remarks swiftly. He warned America to detach the Russian segment of the space station and leave Vande Hei behind.

On the other hand, NASA is silent so far, regarding Russian threats to abandon the American astronaut.

Even before the Ukraine conflict, Russia threatened to pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, which would ostensibly change the future of space missions.

Space Collaboration is in Danger

Over time, both America and Russia collaborated heavily in the construction and maintenance of the ISS.

However, this time, the Russian-Ukraine war is impacting that collaboration as well, an event of unprecedented nature.

According to former astronaut Scott Kelly, “cooperation is the most important thing” in space when you are navigating the Earth at speeds as high as 17,500 miles per hour in a dangerous environment.

Kelly, thus, mentioned he was “enraged” after listening to news that Russians would leave a fellow crew member behind in space.

While Kelly stated he trusted Russian crew members multiple times during his career, he also recommended the United States to “prepare for the worst.”

The former astronaut also hoped the mutual cooperation between different countries would continue in space, as it would bring all of “humanity together.” This is the only thing that makes different countries friends, Kelly concluded.

Currently, the ISS comprises two sections, and both the United States and Russia control each.

While Russia-US relations took a hit multiple times, unparalleled cooperation has been seen in space between the two major competitors of the Earth.

In 2011, American astronauts relied on Russian rockets to return to the ISS when the US Shuttle program ended.

Cady Coleman, one of the American astronauts who was rescued by Russian rockets, noted in a dangerous thing like space, everyone looks each other in the eyes and vows they came for the same thing here, irrespective of the country of their origins.