Russia and China plan to have a “detailed dialogue” about how to proceed with the construction of a base on the moon, according to the Kremlin’s space agency chief, in a potential move away from the space cooperation between the United States and Russia in recent decades.
"Before the end of May, I plan to hold detailed dialogue with our Chinese colleagues on our cooperation in this direction,” Roscosmos chief executive Dmitry Rogozin told state media.
An expansion of space cooperation between Moscow and Beijing would underscore their alignment against the U.S.-led alliance network in recent years. Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts have worked side-by-side on the International Space Station since the earliest years of the post-Cold War era, but that cosmic symbol of geopolitical peace is aging fast, and the war in Ukraine could doom an extension of such projects in the years to come.
"We should not hustle now declaring our stance and will carry on with our work within the timeframe set by the government, which is until 2024," Rogozin told state-run TASS. "A decision regarding the ISS future will depend to a great extent on the developing situation both in Russia and around it.”
A crew of U.S. and European astronauts arrived this week at the space station, as a pair of Russian cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk to begin the use of a robotic arm furnished by the European Space Agency. They took the spacewalk, which lasted 7 hours and 42 minutes, as an opportunity to display the Soviet-era “Victory Banner” that first flew in Berlin at the end of the Second World War.
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"Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev voiced an idea several days ago to spread the Victory Banner in the open space and wrote about it to the Roscosmos press office," Roscosmos spokesman Dmitry Strugovets said Friday. "His initiative was supported at all levels. No one remained indifferent.”
Russian cosmonauts unfurling the Soviet victory flag outside the International Space Station: pic.twitter.com/8vS5Ts0gxR— Ben Judah (@b_judah) April 29, 2022
That banner made a stark contrast with the bespoke yellow uniforms with blue patches that the Russian cosmonauts wore in March, a display widely perceived as a pointed choice to don the colors of the Ukrainian national flag. Artemyev insisted that their tailoring had no political significance, which Russian officials said was designed to showcase the colors of Bauman Moscow State Technical University, reportedly the alma mater of the cosmonauts.
“There is no need to look for any hidden signs or symbols in our uniform,” Artemyev said at the time, in a statement given to the space agency. “A color is simply a color. It is not in any way connected to Ukraine. Otherwise, we would have to recognize its rights to the yellow sun in the blue sky. These days, even though we are in space, we are together with our president and our people.”
American officials hope to broker a deal to have “mixed crews” of Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts on upcoming U.S.-launched and Russian-launched flights to the space station, in an apparent effort to “ensure there would be at least one American and one Russian on the station should a vehicle be out of service for an extended period,” according to a recent Space News report.
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“We’re talking to our Russian colleagues on a regular basis on this,” NASA ISS program manager Joel Montalbano told reporters this week. “They’ve been supportive of the crew swap, and so we’re expecting a positive response from the Russian government.”