Russian Exit Will 'Cripple' ISS Unless US Congress Acts - NASA Advisory Council Members

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 17th August, 2022) The International Space Station (ISS) will be crippled if Russia eventually leaves unless US Congress authorizes and funds private-public partnerships to cover Roscosmos's duties, NASA Advisory Council members Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jane Harman said in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.

Roscosmos Executive Director for Piloted Spaceflights Sergey Krikalev said earlier this month that Russia is looking into potential projects to replace the International Space Station (ISS) after 2024.

"Roscosmos, is threatening to leave the ISS before the station retires in 2030. If nothing is done, this could cripple the ISS," Hutchison and Harman said in the op-ed published on Tuesday. "There is a potential solution in the station's longstanding relationship with the commercial space industry... that successful private-public partnership has evolved as the industry has and could help cover Roscosmos's duties on the ISS if Russia leaves."

The NASA advisers said the ISS would be impaired if Moscow decides to leave because Russia supplies the propulsion-control elements of the station. However, they added, Northrup-Grumman's Cygnus cargo vehicle could provide reboost in lieu of Roscosmos's cooperation while SpaceX is evaluating if it could use its Dragon Cargo modules to do the same.

"Both of these ventures will take time as well as authorizations and funding from Washington," the NASA advisers said. "Congress must not be hampered by the sort of partisan infighting that mars so much of our political discourse. The ISS is too important to lose."

Research conducted on board the ISS advanced treatment of cancer and other diseases, the duo noted, and is home to the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a unique instrument searching for evidence of dark matter in deep space.

Hutchison and Harman also said, despite Moscow's threats, channels of communication remain open and Russia is still working with the ISS.

"It's essential to continue and expand these efforts with an emphasis on international cooperation," the authors wrote.

Hutchison served as US envoy to NATO from 2017-2021 and Harman served in the US House representing California for around 15 years.

Krikalev earlier this month said Russia's decision to leave the ISS will be based on a technical evaluation, but no changes will be made until 2024.