Russia has pulled out from the international space collaboration after two significant decades.
The global geo-political canvas has always been volatile and has constantly been evolving. The US, the dominant power in the west and Russia in the east have always been at odds with each other. Their earthly struggle during the Cold War prompted the space race between the two adversaries. Russia sent the first man into space and America landed the first man on the moon. Both the camps separately pushed the envelope of human space exploration to a new extent in their rush to become the Space Superpower. The war ended, and decades later, it was the common consensus that combining resources for the exploration of space, would be more efficient and fruitful. Thus the International Space Station was launched in 1998, making it one of the most significant collaborations of the two superpowers in history.
Both the US and Russia together commissioned the original venture. Space agencies of other countries like Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency built modules that were launched later to further expand the station that astronauts now occupy.
Two decades later, the head of the Russian Space Agency, Dmitry Rogozin, announced their withdrawal from the ISS. They’ll be abandoning their section of the ISS by 2025 and plan to build and launch the Russian Space Station by 2030, pending the approval of the Russian Premier Vladimir Putin. This space station will not be a permanent residence for astronauts because of its orbit, which will enable higher levels of radiation; the cosmonauts would visit the station in intervals. The station will also accommodate and enlist both artificial intelligence and robots.
This decision comes at a precarious time when US-Russia relations are brittle, and tensions are at an all-time high with the alleged election meddlings, cyber-attacks, human rights issues- currently including the imprisonment of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny, and Russia’s military standoff at the Ukraine border.
It is also interesting to note that this decision is preceded by Russia’s recent deal with China to make a Joint base that will orbit the moon.
“If you want to do it well, do it yourself,” said Rogozin, making the country’s intention clear of being fully independent and getting the station into orbit by 2030. Russia intends to spend $6bn dollars on this station launch.
As we progress into the world propelled by emerging technology, even in the world of rocket science and space exploration, a question looms paramount. Is it wise for humans to dictate the pursuits of space exploration on the basis of divided geo-political borders? Or would it be wiser to combine resources and explore space as a single species than as tribal, war mongering apes?