Thursday, April 3, 2014

NASA Is Severing Ties With Russia

Apparently it won't affect work on the International Space Station
According to an internal memo obtained by The Verge, NASA will be severing ties with Russian government officials over the country's "violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity." 
The memo says all meetings between NASA employees and Russian officials have been banned. That extends to personal visits, phone calls, and even emails. The only exception being made is for "operational International Space Station activities." (Right now, the U.S. buys trips to the ISS from Russia; it's unclear how this will affect that arrangement, if at all.)

The memo comes after NASA chief Charles Bolden slammed Congress for failing to increase the NASA budget enough to stay independent of Russia.
Here, via SpaceRef, is the full text of the email:
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
Dear Colleagues,
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, [phone redacted] or [email redacted], 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
We've reached out to NASA and will report back when we learn more.
Update: NASA has released a statement. Here it is in full:
Given Russia's ongoing violation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year.  With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians.  It’s that simple.  The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same. 

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