Russia, it seems, is open to extending its collaboration with the United States, Japan, Europe, and Canada, regarding the future of the International Space Station.
In 2015, Russia declared that it would only support the ISS mission until 2024.
However, reports now reveal that Igor Komarov, the director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, is open to the prospect of extending the partnership beyond 2024.
Russia Ready To Extend ISS Partnership?
When asked by reporters whether Roscosmos would consider the notion of extending the ISS partnership by another four years, Komarov replied in the affirmative.
"We are ready to discuss it," said Komarov in a press meet at the U.S. Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
For the unfamiliar, the ISS is an orbiting engineering and science laboratory in outer space. It has been staffed permanently with a crew comprising cosmonauts and astronauts since November 2000. The $100 billion laboratory is placed 250 miles above Earth and is continuously orbiting the planet.
Komarov may be open to the collaboration and extending the partnership with ISS beyond 2024, but he shared that before venturing beyond the ISS orbit, humans need to resolve many medical and technical issues back home.
He also noted that the Russia-United States partnership for space exploration has managed to survive over the years despite continued political tensions between the two nations. Even in 1975, at the height of the Cold War, the Russian Soyuz capsule and an American Apollo spacecraft docked together on Earth's orbit.
In case the partnership with the United States sours, Russia has a backup plan up its sleeve. In 2016, Russia revealed that it would disengage some of its modules from the ISS and use them to build a new independent outpost in orbit.
Nevertheless, Komarov assures that the minor change in the Russian space programs are not indicative of severing ties with the United States. He further added that the detachment of modules was done in a bid to "be on the safe side" and to ensure that they can continue their research.
NASA In Trouble If Russia Collaboration Ends?
NASA shells out roughly $3 billion each year on the ISS and carries out several scientific studies and experiments.
NASA relies on Russia for its Soyuz rockets that ferry astronauts to the ISS and bring them back to Earth.
However, NASA is in conversation with private space companies such as Boeing and SpaceX. The U.S. space agency is optimistic that these companies would be able to come up with a Russian Soyuz equivalent that can be used for transportation by 2024.
Roscosmos, on the other hand, intends to lift off three scientific modules to the ISS by 2020 as reported by Russian newspaper Pravda. The same report reveals that by 2024, Roscosmos' chief analyst Andrei Lonin intends to build a Russian space station similar to the ISS, with a possible collaboration with China.