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Curtailing US-Russian space projects may cause huge harm to science — scientist

April 04, 2014, 12:07 UTC+3 WASHINGTON
Roald Sagdeyev, who has long led the Space Research Institute under the USSR Academy of Sciences, said he had no doubts that NASA’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia was “induced from above”
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© EPA/NASA/HANDOUT/BILL INGALLS/Archive

WASHINGTON, April 04. /ITAR-TASS/. A Soviet and Russian physicist has warned of the dire effects any curtailment of Russian-US space projects may have on world science.

Roald Sagdeyev, who has long led the Space Research Institute under the USSR Academy of Sciences, told ITAR-TASS in an interview on Thursday he had no doubts that NASA’s decision to suspend cooperation with Russia was “induced from above.”

Sagdeyev, currently a professor at the University of Maryland, explained that “NASA is a purely technical organization that never makes political decisions.”

“Obviously, it acted on instructions from superiors, reflecting the general policy of the country’s leadership. It’s all pretty clear. But what will it result in technically? At this point, we only know that the International Space Station remains. There have been reports that the commercial contracts for rocket engines that are delivered through private companies also stay in effect. It remains to be seen what will happen to purely scientific cooperation outside the ISS domain.”

Sagdeyev said that “there have been no negative messages yet to the effect some joint instruments have been switched off.” “Let us wait and see,” he said.

 

Reaction of scientific community

Asked about the response from the US scientific community to NASA’s announcement, Sagdeyev offered this reply, “The general feeling is if some specific projects are curtailed and research instruments that are being used jointly are turned off, the loss for science will be great, indeed. I will say even more. It will be a great loss for specific people who have spent years of their lives to achieve these projects.”

As Sagdeyev remarked, “it has turned out that US sanctions hit mostly those who are sincerely devoted to science and cooperate with each other.” As an example he mentioned a Crimea-related project.

“About a year ago Russia successfully launched the RadioAstron research satellite,” Sagdeyev said. “It is a unique radio telescope, as a matter of fact, a system linked with ground-based radio telescopes with unique resolution parameters, capable of examining the tiniest details thousands of times better than Hubble or other optical telescopes. Cooperation under that project synchronized the operation of telescopes located in different continents and providing support for RadioAstron. One of these ground telescopes, the main one in Europe, is located in Crimea’s seaside resort of Yevpatoria. I do not know what will happen to it now and what steps will be taken in practice (in the wake of NASA’s declaration)," the scientist noted.

Sagdeyev believes that “the American scientists will certainly ask their senators and House of Representatives to make exceptions for specific projects they are working on (together with Russia).”

Earlier, the United States declared that it was suspending cooperation with Russia in the space activity under all projects except for the ISS. NASA said the decision was in retaliation for Russia’s policy towards Ukraine.

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