WASHINGTON, April 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Government has suspended all contact between its space agency and the Russians' over the ongoing geopolitical crisis in Ukraine.
According to a NASA memo sent Wednesday by Associate Administrator Michael O'Brien, all contact between NASA and Roscosmos was indefinitely suspended, with the exception of activities related to operating the International Space Station.
As of last week, when two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut joined the current expedition, there are three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese astronaut aboard the space station.
Just last week, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he had no fear that the Russian government would cut off American access to the space station, despite the Earth-bound crisis. While the U.S. has relied on Russia's launch vehicles to transport astronauts to space since NASA grounded the Space Shuttle program, Bolden said the Russians were just as dependent on the U.S. to run the station as the U.S. was on Russia's transportation abilities.
Still, members of Congress were clearly concerned that Russia wielded control of a critical piece of the U.S.'s ability to operate in space. Bolden hoped to leverage their concern in urging Congress to pay for the development of the Commercial Carrier program, which would be on target to launch astronauts from U.S. soil by 2017 if fully funded.
And Tuesday, Congress passed the final version of a bill that would send aid to Ukraine, including a $1 billion guaranteed loan, and implemented mild sanctions on Russia.
The full memo:
From: O'Brien, Michael F (HQ-TA000) Sent: Wednesday, April 02, 2014 9:33 AM To: [Deleted] Cc: [Deleted] Subject: Suspension of NASA contact with Russian entities
Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted. This suspension includes NASA travel to Russia and visits by Russian Government representatives to NASA facilities, bilateral meetings, email, and teleconferences or videoconferences. At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted. In addition, multilateral meetings held outside of Russia that may include Russian participation are not precluded under the present guidance. If desired, our office will assist in communication with Russian entities regarding this suspension of activities. Specific questions regarding the implementation of this guidance can be directed to Ms. Meredith McKay, 202.358.1240 or firstname.lastname@example.org, in our office.
We remain in close contact with the Department of State and other U.S. Government departments and agencies. If the situation changes, further guidance will be disseminated.
Michael F. O'Brien
Associate Administrator for International and Interagency Relations
National Aeronautics and Space Administration