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Decision to suspend cooperation with Russia causes bewilderment in NASA

April 04, 2014, 19:32 UTC+3 WASHINGTON

Experts comment on NASA suspending cooperation with Russia

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WASHINGTON, April 04. /ITAR-TASS/. The US decision to suspend space cooperation with Russia, except the International Space Station program, has caused a mixed reaction among American experts, many of whom believe it is a mistake. Even in NASA, many are displeased, warning it may have a negative effect on the national space program and the ISS project.

The US space agency declines to give official comments on the decision taken in connection with the situation around Ukraine. However, some employees have expressed at least bewilderment. During the crisis, the worst thing to do is to stop talking with each other, American astronaut Ronald Garan has blogged on Twitter. He was a member of an international crew aboard the ISS in 2011. He urged not to sacrifice what was working, trying to save what did not work.

People are displeased with it, a NASA specialist, who asked not to be named, said about the suspension of contacts with Russia. Everyone asked why they did it, why NASA was chosen to punish Russia, he said.


Experts' opinion on the matter

Independent experts also told ITAR-TASS that they did not welcome it. Deputy Director at the Space Policy Institute Henry Hertzfeld said he felt regret in connection with the NASA decision. There was cooperation is space even during the cold war times, he said, recalling the Soviet-American project Soyuz-Apollo.

He hoped the pause in contacts would not be long and would not lead to changes in the space policy aimed at international cooperation. If it lasts long, it will affect the ISS project, Hertzfeld warned. At the same time, he noted the NASA decision was part of the US government's policy to suspend cooperation with Russia.

It is clear why Washington has taken the step, but it is a pity that it affects joint scientific programs, believes the head of the Space Foundation that supports space research, Elliot Pulham. Peaceful international partnership in such projects, as the ISS, was important for official and unofficial diplomacy, he said in an interview to ITAR-TASS.

The freezing of contacts between NASA and Roscosmos is of an unprecedented character, notes a professor at Nebraska University, Frans von der Dunk. Relations between the two space agencies always were very friendly, and Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts always felt mutual respect, he noted.

If the relations are undermined and there is no confidence, it may damage the space programs of the two countries, an American expert, the author of several books about space research history, James Oberg, warns. He also criticizes NASA for intending to use the tension in relations between Washington and Moscow to settle its financial problems.

Announcing the suspension of cooperation with Roscosmos, the US space agency said it intended to complete the development of an own spaceship as soon as possible to eliminate "the dependence on Russia" to carry American astronauts to the ISS. If the Congress does not provide funds, the United States will continue to transfer millions of dollars to Russia, NASA warns. The statement was so depressing that it was hard to believe, Oberg said.

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