18 February 2018

Should We End Our ISS Partnership With Russia?

ISS, Earth, and Moon. Image credit: NASA
In August 1992, I was a new contractor employee at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. NASA JSC was at that time reeling from cuts in the Space Station Freedom (SSF) Program. At the same time, JSC engineers were trying to reconcile themselves to the agreement U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin had concluded in Moscow on 17 June 1992. The agreement called for a U.S. astronaut to live and work on board Russia's Mir space station, a Russian cosmonaut to fly on a U.S. Space Shuttle Orbiter, and a Shuttle Orbiter to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, the first element of which had been launched by the Soviet Union in 1986.

In addition, NASA had paid Russia $1 million to assess use of a series of three-person Soyuz spacecraft as SSF lifeboats until a U.S. lifeboat could be built, and to look at possible U.S. purchase of other Russian-developed space technology (for example, the docking unit built for the Soviet Buran Shuttle, which was based on a U.S. design developed for the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Program and the Soviet design proposed for the abortive Shuttle-Salyut Program).

The Soyuz lifeboat was not intended to transport a crew to SSF. Instead, it would launch to SSF, which would circle Earth in an orbit inclined 28.5 degrees to Earth's equator, from U.S. soil in a Shuttle Orbiter payload bay or atop an expendable U.S. rocket. In November 1992, a NASA-Russia team traveled to Australia to assess its wide open spaces as possible emergency landing sites for Soyuz lifeboats.

Just before the joint team toured Australia, voters in the U.S. went to the polls to elect William Clinton as their President. NASA JSC trembled - many employed there as Federal civil servants and contractors felt sure that President Clinton would end SSF. In fact, he did just that, but he did not end the Space Station Program. Clinton also retained NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, an appointee of President Bush.

In March 1993 - 25 years ago next month - Clinton ordered NASA to provide three new, lower-cost designs for a U.S. space Station and tasked his Vice President, Al Gore, with overseeing the redesign. Gore appointed a committee to assess the three redesign options NASA would develop.

Also in March 1993, Yuri Koptev, director of the newly formed Russian Space Agency, and Yuri Semenov, director of Russia's chief piloted spaceflight design bureau, NPO Energia, wrote to NASA Administrator Goldin to formally propose the merger of the U.S. station with Russia's planned Mir-2 station. The Russian Federation was broke, so unless it could find a new funding source, Mir-2 would never fly.

In addition, Russian space engineers were going unpaid. It seemed likely that, if they could not work on Russian space hardware, they would sell their expertise abroad to the highest bidder. This could lead to world-wide missile proliferation at a time when the Russian nuclear arsenal was judged by many to be poorly supervised.

The U.S. House of Representatives nearly killed NASA's space station on 23 June 1993; by a single vote it survived in the NASA Fiscal Year 1994 budget. Meanwhile, the proposal to merge the U.S. station and Mir-2 gained momentum. A major sticking point was the orbit in which the station would be assembled. Nevertheless, as I celebrated a year of work at NASA JSC, I became increasingly confident that the joint station would be built. Space science arguments seemed not to move the Congress; Russian involvement, on the other hand, gave the station a geopolitical purpose Congress seemed ready to endorse. The U.S.-Russian space station plan became a reality in November 1993; at the same time, NASA and Russia expanded the Bush-Yeltsin agreement to include multiple U.S. Shuttle flights to Mir.

The International Space Station (ISS) would be built with contributions from the U.S., Russia, Canada, the European Space Agency, and Japan in an orbit inclined 51.6 degrees relative to the equator - close to the latitude of Baikonur Cosmodrome. This enabled Soyuz to default to its role as a space station crew transport. It would carry international crews to ISS, where it would remain docked for up to six months. If it became necessary to abandon ISS, Soyuz would land in long-established landing zones on Russian soil. The U.S. Space Shuttle could reach that orbit bearing U.S., Canadian, European, and Japanese station components, but with a diminished payload weight.

I need not go into the history of the Shuttle-Mir Program and ISS Program in great detail. Suffice it to say that the U.S.-Russian relationship was rocky at times. NASA, of course, had no choice but to make it work.

In March 1995, I left NASA JSC to edit Star Date magazine, but NASA was not through with me; I was hired to write a series of publications for NASA JSC and NASA Headquarters. I quit Star Date after editing two issues and in effect became my own company, just like Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, or Boeing. I retained a NASA JSC badge until 2001 and even worked for several months as a short-term Federal civil servant with an office in Building 2, which houses NASA JSC Public Affairs. I was offered a permanent job - editing the employee newspaper, The Space News Roundup - but ran away screaming for reasons I will not go into here.

In April 1996, on my own dime, I toured Russian space facilities and met Russian space engineering students, space engineers, cosmonauts, and Russian Space Agency officials as part of the first Friends and Partners in Space Workshop. I wrote about it for Astronomy magazine. Almost all the Russians I met were cordial, welcoming, and open.

At this moment, when the U.S. teeters on the edge of crisis, one detail in particular stands out in my memory. At the close of the workshop, we had dinner in the revolving restaurant high above Moscow on the Ostankino TV Tower. As the restaurant turned, we could see different parts of the city spread out below us. A closed-off neighborhood of mansions came into view. It stood out against the more ramshackle buildings of Soviet-era Moscow. I asked one of our student guides about it. He hesitated, looking nervous, but also a little disgusted. "Those are the mansions of the oligarchs," he said. "We do not talk about those."

In the mid-1990s, many hoped that Russia might become a functioning democracy, but that hope faded in the first decade of the present century. The corrupt oligarchs finished building their mansions and took power, led by Vladimir Putin. They began to "meddle" in the affairs of other nations, starting with countries that had been part of the old Soviet Union. As the years passed, their methods became more sophisticated and were expanded beyond the old Soviet sphere. Meddling became outright attack on democratic institutions.

At some point, many histories will be written about this period. I do not propose to attempt that here. Suffice it to say that the U.S. has been attacked and remains under attack. It will win through, but doing so will likely require drastic (though lawful) measures.

Among these could be the end of the U.S.-Russian partnership in space. So far, little has emerged to suggest that NASA and Russia might be in conflict (at least, they appear to be in no greater state of conflict than they have been before); however, if they are not in conflict, perhaps they should be.

I believe it is time to consider closing the hatches between the Russian Service Module and the U.S.-owned FGB and cutting all the connections that bind the U.S. and Russian segments together. Russia has attacked our most fundamental institutions; how can we continue to work with them off the Earth? Discarding the Russian segment would be a highly visible sign that the U.S. and its partners are not prepared to tolerate Putin's actions.

I am, of course, aware that U.S. piloted spaceflight is highly dependent on Russia. Russian Soyuz spacecraft transport Station crews, and Russian propellants and rocket motors keep ISS in orbit. I am also aware that, in the past, the U.S. has been able to respond with remarkable rapidity to attacks waged against it. I think we could do so again.

For example, SpaceX and Boeing could be required to accelerate their piloted spaceflight efforts - to put on hold, for the good of the nation and as a sign of their patriotism, other work until their piloted Earth-orbital spacecraft can be certified as flightworthy.

Modifications to one or all of the various commercial logistics vehicles that visit ISS might enable them to raise its orbit. The U.S. Air Force X-37 spacecraft might also be modified.

I expect there are other options as well. Perhaps Europe, Canada, and Japan could draw upon their technology and experience to provide options; for example, NASA might pay ESA to revive the ATV cargo vehicle. Perhaps ESA would do so for free; after all, among its members are nations that have also been subjected to Russian attack.

Protest and punishment mean nothing unless they inconvenience those they are directed against. The Russian segment would suffer an acute electricity shortage. Losing power from the U.S. arrays might, in fact, kill Russia's part of ISS, and with it, perhaps, its piloted space program.

There was a time when that knowledge would have led me to reconsider what I propose here. For me, however, that time is now over.

Addendum, 26 February 2018: please be sure to read the comments readers have contributed to this post. They expand the themes the post explores and lead to some important alternate conclusions.


  1. While I agree that there are solutions, cutting Russia out of the ISS deal will cost the USA enormously to bootstrap its own manned launch vehicle programs to cover for the Soyuz spacecraft.

    In financial terms, the USA would be punishing itself as much, if not much more, than the Russians.

    Also, I am personally against subordinating scientific programs to political maneuvers, or holding great human accomplishments such as the ISS hostage in international disputes.

    1. I think your logic might have been applied to Japan after Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt might have said, "We've been attacked, but it would be really expensive to respond, so we should just act as if nothing has happened." I'm kind of glad he didn't say that.


  2. David,

    I agree that Putin and his inner circle of advisors need to be punished. For it is they that concocted this cyber attack and manipulation of the low-information sectors of the electorate (including both Trump supporters and the Bernie supporters and the Jill Stein supporters--all of whom were already predisposed to listen to negative news about the Democratic front runner).

    But Putin isn't on board the ISS. It is cosmonauts and astronauts from the US and ESA and Japan. Lots of nations have experiments on board. This would have severe blow-back on space science and joint international activities.

    To punish Putin will require kicking Russia out of SWIFT, more tailored draconian sanctions against the Putin inner circle (including those siloviki who keep thinking they are immune), and start publicly releasing the financial intelligence the US intelligence community has on Putin's illegal activities.

    1. A:

      I am not proposing that we end the US ISS segment, with all its international robotics and labs. I think we can develop means of dumping the Russian segment. As I state in my post, when we've been attacked in the past, we've been able to fight back with remarkable speed.

      The US segment has some period of time before it must reenter. Can we turn a cargo Dragon into a booster? I mean, after all, Elon Musk is Tony Stark, right? ;-) Cut off the Russian segment, and it goes dark, pretty much. Game over for them.

      I agree with the steps you outline in your last paragraph.


    2. Countis spy on one another--we did so with Angela Merkel, and taxpayer dollars was even spent on trying to oust people

      ISS and cooperation in space was meant to rise above such politics.

      If there was ever an Olympics to be boycotted--it was the Hitler Olympics--but that would have stolen Owen's victory. I want China modules on ISS too.

      I think we need to come together more now than ever.

    3. A:

      This is not about spying. This is about the Russians using psyops to interfere with the 2016 election and GOP collusion with the Russians.

      The Washington Times is one of those papers that one has to be careful about. In any case, the story you mention has nothing to do with the issues at hand.

      ISS and cooperation in space was and is *based on* politics. I explain that in my post.

      I believe that Americans should indeed come together to thwart further Russian attacks on our democratic institutions.


  3. I would like to chop off the Russians cold. But there are problems.

    I have always been angry when NASA decided to end the Shuttle program before the replacement was online and running. But NASA promised that the delay would be short, a US shuttle replacement would be up and running by no later than ... 2014.

    Predictably, here it is 2018 and there is still no man-rated replacement in sight. It is not even clear what the replacement will be. We knew this was going to happen, and it did. But apparently either NASA had an overly optimistic schedule, or it lied to Congress for its own reasons.

    Yes, in an ideal world it would be best for SpaceX and/or Boeing to accelerate their man-rating efforts. But I fear that reckons without the horrendous foot-dragging that comes with bureaucracy, NASA's hyper risk-averse culture, the hostility of the current administration, the failure to meet deadlines on the part of both companies, and the contrary marching orders given NASA by the people in charge of NASA's budget.

    Frankly I'd be surprised if either SpaceX or Boeing could get a spacecraft through NASA's man-rating procedure before the ISS is due to be deorbited. I don't like this state of affairs, but there is little that can be done about it.

    1. Nyrath:

      You might be right - or perhaps enough people will become pissed off to make things that seem impossible possible.

      When your country is attacked, risk-aversion is not an option. We need to understand that Putin's putting his stooge in our White House is a fundamental assault on our country. I'm not sure that very many people understand that yet. They will.

      I think the Shuttle replacement wasn't ready because Commercial Crew was never realistic. I wrote about this a while back - one suggestion I made for fixing the mess was we get SpaceX to concentrate on cargo and Boeing to concentrate on crew. Cargo is less strict in its requirements, and with Boeing we get synergy with Orion.

      You give dumping the Russian segment enough military priority - the way Apollo had top priority - and amazing things can happen. And so we arrive at the subversive side of what I write here.

      ISS is not all that important. It runs on inertia. I'm not convinced that we get anything close to a reasonable return on our investment. Let the private companies have it - they'll be out of business in five years, tops. There's nothing they can do with it. It'll be Mircorp all over again.

      So, dump the Russians - it's a highly (literally) visible gesture. And, I contend, ISS is expendable anyway.

      But I still believe that it needn't be. If we can't modify it to make it independent of the Russian segment, then maybe we shouldn't be fooling with it anyway.


    2. "...one suggestion I made for fixing the mess was we get SpaceX to concentrate on cargo and Boeing to concentrate on crew. Cargo is less strict in its requirements."

      And yet, the irony is that, on all available information, it seems SpaceX is still probably a few months ahead of Boeing in its timetable right now. (That could change with unexpected setbacks.) In fairness, SpaceX had a built-in advantage in already having a cargo version of the Dragon in operation since 2012. I'm not sure how much insight Boeing has into LockMart's work on Orion merely by virtue of their development of the SLS.

      In any event, NASA really seems to have wanted the redundancy offered by two distinct contractors with distinct vehicles and launchers. And the only other option on hand was Dream Chaser, which was even further behind in its development curve than Boeing was. And redundancy isn't such a bad idea - you not only have to look at the hiccups that both Orbital and SpaceX had with COTS, but the long 2+ year downtimes NASA itself had before Return To Flight after Challenger and Columbia. If you have an RTF that long with ISS, you might as well just splash it.

    3. Athelstane:

      I think we might as well splash it, if you are absolutely sure that we can't do anything without the Russians. I can't see how we can continue to work with them after what they've done.


    4. "...if you are absolutely sure that we can't do anything without the Russians."

      I didn't mean to suggest *that*. There *are* some difficulties that would have to be surmounted, and I think it depends on how much lead time you can give NASA to address them. I see three principal difficulties - none are deal breakers, but they are not minor, either.

      1. Guidance, navigation, control, and propulsion capabilities of the ISS are entirely contained in the Russian Zvezda module. But here's the thing: Initially, these were all provided by the Zarya module, which, although built and launched by the Russians, is actually owned by the United States. I have no idea what condition those systems are in, but if they could be activated, you might have an interim solution while you worked something more robust out - there is the Interim Control Module, which was intended to be the U.S. backup option, now currently in caretaker status; I am not sure what it would take to make it flight ready, or even what its mass and dimensions are, which is obviously important for figuring out what launcher could handle it, and what kind of fairing would be needed (I suspect you'd need a Delta IV Heavy or Falcon Heavy - it's a pretty hefty piece of hardware, with up to 12,000 lbs of propellant alone). The ICM is an option which would take some time, even on a "rush" basis.

      2. Toilet, kitchen and sleep stations: Zvezda has some of each; the real problem is that the two station toilets are both on Zvezda. Perhaps something could be improved and sent up on the next CRS flight (Cygnus or Dragon); crew could find other places to sleep and eat if necessary, with some improvisation, but the toilets are something they cannot live without. So you'd need at least a couple months of lead time for that right there, at least.

      3. Supply. Progress flights carry a significant share of the supply burden; that could be compensated for - there's a reserve on the station of several months, and the U.S. does have two contractors it could lean harder on for an increased tempo of supply missions. But that requires some lead time, too; I don't know how fast SpaceX and Orbital can put together cargo vehicles for such an increased tempo. Maybe the station reserves would be enough time to sort that out. (The Dragons, at least, will now be reused/refurbished.)

      Still, all this is academic without the political support for such a drastic move. As I noted above, there was a great deal of unhappiness on the Hill with the Administration ISS proposal, and it was not just from Republicans. Bill Nelson was quite starchy (and his voice carries very far on space policy, obviously): "If the administration plans to abruptly pull us out of the International Space Station in 2025, they’re going to have a fight on their hands.” He has no love for Putin, but I think he'd have kittens if it was proposed to abandon the station.

      Honestly, I was never a fan of including the Russians in the station in the first place; the orbit is bad, and there are other compromises...but I also recognize that Clinton probably could not have saved the station without bringing in the Russians. And then of course there's that sticky question of how we'd have gotten crew up to it after 2011.

  4. "For example, SpaceX and Boeing could be required to accelerate their piloted spaceflight efforts - to put on hold, for the good of the nation and as a sign of their patriotism, other work until their piloted Earth-orbital spacecraft can be certified as flightworthy."

    The problem isn't just - or even primarily, I think - with Boeing and SpaceX. You're also going to need NASA's Commercial Crew office to waive not only certification, but some other specs and procedures as well. The final phase of CCtCAP has switched over to modified FAR contracts, and with that has come (much) more NASA oversight. We can argue over the wisdom of that - NASA has reasons, obviously, to be more safety paranoid - but from what I have heard, it's the primary reason why both contractors have struggled to hit final milestones over the past year. There has been some "mission creep" on safety requirements....and, of course, NASA does nothing terribly quickly in the first place.

    And of course it's not just the crew vehicles. There's also the launchers, and the ground equipment. Both Falcon 9 and the Atlas V are planned to employ modified versions of both launchers - Falcon 9 because they plan to debut the Block 5 this spring, and Atlas V because the Centaur upper stage is being modified to include a second engine to eliminate abort black zones. NASA wants to see at least seven flights of the former, and (oddly, only) one flight of the latter before allowing crew to fly for the first crewed test flights - perhaps NASA could waive or reduce those requirements, but that still wouldn't get you flights of either *that* soon. Likewise, both contractors are still working on completing launch pad crew access and GSE; there's only so much that can be done to accelerate that.

    Now, I'm *already* keen to do the waivers (I think too many of the requirements are arbitrary, and the process too time consuming), and reduce the number of needed test flights of Falcon 9 B.5, but I really don't see how you can accelerate first flights of either by more than a couple months. And in the meantime, NASA simply can't continue to stay on ISS without the Russians. And without constant human maintenance, the station will degrade rather quickly. I think you'd have to decide whether the principle at stake is worth sacrificing the ISS. And I think even a Hillary Clinton Administration-run NASA would be extremely reluctant to answer that question in the affirmative. It's a $100 billion+ piece of hardware, and too much of NASA's near-time plans is tied up in it - just look at the ferocious reaction on the Hill to the Administration's proposal to merely examine possible exit plans for ISS in 2025.

    1. Athelstane:

      I think you are saying that I am grasping at straws, and I'm willing to accept that. I am also cognizant of the fact that we either have to ditch the Russians or ditch ISS and the Russians. We cannot continue to work with them in space. As the magnitude of that they have done to us becomes increasingly obvious, I can't imagine many Americans supporting continued cooperation with the Russians on board ISS. Space supporters, maybe, but we are a tiny minority.


    2. Hi David,

      I won't get into the politics of the thing, and I don't have a strong sense of how public opinion impacts on ISS; but I will aver that there's also growing concern over Roscosmos QC that would *alone* justify some hard thinking about this whole question...

      Obviously this is not something you could do overnight and hope to keep the station. I think we have to accept that. But I wonder if it wouldn't be worth asking NASA to generate a rush study of how quickly the U.S. segment could be made viable by itself, and what would be required (and what it could cost). Could it be made viable within 12 months? If so, would Congress spring for that? If so, maybe you could then tell the Russians that they're cut off in March 2019 (or fill in date). They'd be angry, but they hold few cards; their segment cannot possibly be made viable without the U.S. segment, and they are struggling just to keep their operations afloat as it is.

    3. Athelstane:

      It's not about politics - it's about 21st-century warfare. The U.S. has been attacked in a way we still do not fully understand.

      Imagine that no one in the U.S. knew what an airplane was, or that heavy-than-air flight was possible. Then the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. It's not a great analogy, admittedly, because it doesn't capture the pervasiveness of the Internet.

      Leaving that aside, though - your response is the most realistic I've read so far. Even just doing the study and consulting with our allies and letting the Russians know it is happening could be enough to send an important message.


  5. What would bring termination of ISS program ?
    That's what its about !
    The Moment that USA and Russia goes separate ways in space, is Game Over man !
    Russian can stop access to there part of station and even detach from American part of station.
    What bring some problems for both sides
    The Zarya and Zvezda provided all of critical systems like life support and control
    leaving the US and European, Japanese part of station without those system
    so NASA need to launch new Hardware to replace the Russian parts of ISS
    Also the Russian need to launch new Hardware to replace power supply of ISS (Part of US)

    Since the White House talks about premature end ISS in 2025
    In this case separation of Russian part, to form there new station OPSEK
    Would the US part station be drop in pacific
    The biggest looser in this political game would be Europe and Japan and Private Industry

    On long therm it could have tremendous consequence
    The Russians, Europeans, Japanese could goes there ways and do there programs
    and decline offers by NASA and new White House administration
    For cooperations on Deep Space Gateway and SLS,
    The chance that projects without international cooperation survive Capitol Hill are zero...

    If this scenario happens
    the First NASA astronaut that arrive on Mars, is sitting in backseat as
    paying customer of SpaceX or Blue Origin...

    1. Michel:

      The United States of America has been attacked in a very fundamental way. Set against that, ISS is hardly important.

      That being said, in my post I suggest some solutions. Please read Athelstane's comment (18 February 21:12) for another idea.


  6. From an original skeptic, why the international path turned out to be the right choice for ISS, accidentally. ... but always needs to be reevaluated

    1. Jim:

      It has been a long, strange journey, hasn't it?


    2. The link doesn't work, unfortunately.

    3. http://www.jamesoberg.com/140809_international_strategies.pdf

      An interesting reading. Harsh at times, but very realistic.

  7. When the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was planned and launched, relations between the USA and the USSR weren't much better, but those working in the respective space agencies both thought that setting an example of peaceful cooperation would help everyone.
    I hope continued cooperation is still a possibility, if only as an example that we achieve our best as a species when working together.

    1. Actually, if anything, relations were worse. We had a couple hundred thousand men staring across the Fulda Gap and Berlin Wall at even bigger Soviet armies, several thousand nuclear weapons on both sides at launch on warning, funding and weapons for all sorts of antiUS and NATO terrorist groups and, yes, the KGB wasn't exactly dormant in the U.S. at the time.

      But if there's a difference, I think it was the perception that were improving from their subzero state in 1948-1963, and ASTP (which was a standalone project) became a reward that could be easily handed out to keep improving detente. Whereas US-Russian relations have clearly deteriorated over the past several years.

      I do think that if we were initiating the station today, we would *not* work with the Russians, any more than we would with China. But since they're there *now*, and the station can't function without them without some frantic, substantial activity on the part of NASA, makes it tricky to cut them off, if we really mean to keep the station operation into the 2020's.

    2. Athelstane:

      The situation now is really unprecedented. We've been subjected to a new kind of warfare. Of course, we have always had propaganda. But because the Internet has become so wholly pervasive, this attack reached into millions of homes and offices. In addition, while we have had traitors work for foreign agents before, we've never seen them penetrate our government at such a high level. It is bad enough that members of Congress are compromised, but of course it is obviously much worse than that.

      Hence, past experience might not be a good guide in our present situation.

      Because this situation is so different from what we have faced in the past when we have been attacked by a foreign power, people have a tough time coming to grips with it. Much of the response I have received has been along the lines of, "oh, David, that's terrible, no more space adventures if we end ISS." First off, I haven't suggested ending ISS. I have suggested that we figure out how to disconnect the Russian segment and send it on its merry way. I think people are reacting to the title of my piece, not the content - which is something the Russians depended on, ironically. People are bombarded by so much information, they don't even process it at a conscious level. They see hundreds of provocative headlines, and their brains process them subconsciously. It's an old advertising tactic, but geared to specific demographics and to purposes even more nefarious than getting us to buy tons of crap we don't need.

      The other things is - and I know you understand this - this is the real world. Persons who support continued work with the Russians on board ISS regardless of how they attack us because it's space are really missing the point. I attribute this (again) to the nature of the Russian attack, but also to naivete. ISS was never about some high-flown noble purpose. Quite frankly, both sides were struggling to keep human spaceflight alive as the Cold War ended. It was about money, jobs, geopolitics. Science was in the second tier of concerns, and thoughts of a grand future in space for the human species were never part of the mix.

      Change of subject - I would not be shocked if both the US and the Russian Federation have contingency plans for contending with failure of either the Russian or American segment. One may imagine dozens of scenarios. There might even be a contingency plan for political chaos.

      I should mention as well that nothing precipitate can happen intentionally as far as ISS is concerned simply because we have yet to dislodge our traitors from positions of power. Trump has refused to implement sanctions against Putin's Russia that were passed overwhelmingly by both houses of Congress and which he signed into law. I suspect the GOP voted for them to go on record as patriots knowing that Trump would refuse to carry out his Constitutional responsibilities. That should be a Constitutional crisis, but we have so many of them now that it's difficult to keep track of them all. Trump is cozier with Putin and his minions than he is with our traditional allies.

      It is taking time, and will take more time, to affect any kind of change, even if we manage to protect our elections later this year, even if voters manage to focus on the danger and act in the best interests of the country. (I'm reminded of a gentleman I spoke with in 2008 who said he'd vote for McCain because Obama would stop him from riding his ATV in the National Forest.)

      What this suggests to me is that we have time to prepare to separate the US and Russian segments. We'll have to start planning "under the radar." Perhaps somewhere within NASA, someone is right now spending 10% of their time exploring a variant of a "Russian segment unavailable" scenario. I would not be at all surprised.

      To sum up - Russian involvement in ISS will be on the table if we manage to eject the Russians from our political process. We have to face that. Better to prepare than to ignore reality.


    3. "Quite frankly, both sides were struggling to keep human spaceflight alive as the Cold War ended. It was about money, jobs, geopolitics. Science was in the second tier of concerns."

      Oh, absolutely.

      ISS in this respect is sorta like the Apollo J class missions, isn't it? Apollo after all was greenlighted as a flags-and-footprints PR stunt. And yet, on the back end, NASA managed to squeeze some decent science out of it before it wound down. Same thing with ISS, which while exorbitantly expensive and industrial base and foreign policy motivated, is actually doing a modest amount of science now, as well as bootstrapping some commercial space enterprise.

      (I don't want to push the analogy too far - I find Apollo more inspiring than ISS, as I think you do, too.)

    4. Athelstane:

      It's not a bad analogy at all.

      Please check out my response to pirs34 below. I'm curious to see what you think of it.


  8. Phuzz:

    I agree wholeheartedly with the spirit of your comment. But that only works if we can trust those with whom we are working. Trump trusts Putin more than his own government, but he owes his job to him. Less treasonous heads will prevail, and then ISS will be forfeit - unless we put in place a capability to disconnect the Russians from it while keeping it alive. We need to get to work on this at whatever level we can *now*, even while Putin's poodle lives in our White House.

    I need to tell the story of how we did ASTP. In truth, NASA didn't want to cooperate with the Russians in 1972, when ASTP really got rolling - they saw the mission mainly as a gap-filler between Skylab and Shuttle, and worried about Soviet espionage. Nixon saw cooperation with the Russians as a way of killing the costly space race. JFK, by the way, had similar views in the last 18 mos of his life.

    Nixon wanted NASA to do a cooperative mission. Tom Paine seems to have suggested the idea. The idea was to develop a capability for space rescue for future advanced spacecraft. This meant Shuttle for the US and probably a space station for the Soviets. Hence the development of the universal "neuter" docking system, which was meant to permit spacecraft of any nation to dock with each other.

    But Shuttle was a ways off, so Nixon wanted something else - something that might take place while he was still in office. NASA and Russia decided on Apollo/Salyut. The mission would give NASA some space station experience to add to Skylab experience.

    At the last minute - literally the day before Nixon and Kosygin signed the ASTP agreements in Moscow - the Soviets changed it to Apollo/Soyuz. That was a much less attractive mission for NASA, but it could hardly back out. And so ASTP went ahead.

    After ASTP, the Soviets showed some reluctance to continue the advanced space rescue talks. One idea is that they had shown themselves to be the equals of the US in space through ASTP, and that was enough for them; another is that they needed some time to absorb the information they collected through work with the US on ASTP. It's a fact that their spacecraft underwent rapid advancement immediately after ASTP. Salyut 6 became their first truly long-duration station, Progress flew, and Soyuz underwent upgrades.

    Carter became President. He was eager to punish the Soviets for human rights abuses, so he dialed back space cooperation. Shuttle/whatever talks proceeded, but fitfully, and finally Carter called on the intelligence community and State Department to determine whether such a mission should occur. Then the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and that was it for Shuttle/whatever.

    Low-level cooperation continued - Biosats based on Vostok, for example, carried US experiments, and the Soviets. The earliest memo I have on a US/Soviet space mission post-Afghanistan dates from 1987, and it's directed at Colin Powell. Gorbachev was looking to end the Cold War, and apparently a Shuttle docking with Mir seemed like a good way to demonstrate that. But not until 1990 did we see real discussions.

    So - US/Soviet space cooperation has *always* depended on domestic political and geopolitical factors, and there's always been mistrust. The pendulum swings back and forth. At present, it is stuck, held in place by traitors who seek to sow chaos on behalf of ther Kremlin. They will not remain there forever (or even for much longer).


  9. As a Greek I am quite intrigued how people are so enraged that the Russians intervened in the US elections to the point of helping put their preferred candidate as president when the US has not simply chosen the Greek government but dictated policy to Greece against the will of the Greek people. US Ambassador John Peurifoy has become infamous for dictating what internal Greek laws would be, physically beating up Greek ministers and then getting then the next day to apologize to him for enraging them and rigging the 1952 elections. Peurifoy is just the most infamous case, he was far from alone or the only level that intervened in Greek politics. Lyndon Johnson basically overturned the Prime Minister of Greece Georgios Papandreou after their White House meeting in 1964 because he did not like that he defended Greek interests in Cyprus over American interests. I would rather not continue here listing examples but the general reaction on the whole Trump Russia mess was "Welcome to the club" and "Now you know how it feels to suffer what you did to us in the past".

    In the end as Thucydides put it 2400 years ago " the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" (Book 5, Chapter 89, section 1) and the question is whether it is indeed in the interest of the United States to cease space cooperation with the Russian Federation in space. Personally I think it would be a major mistake to separate the ISS for political reasons. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts and let us not forget that before the ISS the last American station was Skylab. In Anatoly Zak's site he claims that without the Russians teaching the Americans what their design philosophy was in creating and resupplying a space station the US would have never managed to create one. The Russians still have things to teach to the Americans, 18 years after Expedition One and the US still needs a couple more years to replicate the services that the US gets from the Russians. Create a new space station without the Russians? Sure. Try to split the ISS? Better not

    1. pir34:

      I hesitated for a long time - well, a couple of hours, anyway - before I wrote this post, and again before I actually put it on my blog. I'm glad I posted it, even though some folks (not you) seem to have had some difficulty understanding it. It has given me a lot of food for thought and helped me to sort out my ideas.

      I find that I really hate it when Americans use past (and present) American behavior toward "weaker" nations as a justification for not doing whatever we can to thwart Putin and his puppet, but that I do not mind at all when people from other countries point out US sins. The former smacks of collaboration with a dangerous adversary that threatens us here and now; the latter is just telling it like it was and is.

      I read THE LANDMARK THUCYDIDES right after it came out - terrific translation plus appendices that explain all the technology, gods, societies, etc. Throughout it, I kept subconsciously substituting the US for Athens.

      I agree with Tolya - in fact, I've believed that the Russians taught us a lot about space station operations - especially space station ops on the cheap - for a long time. I wrote a thing called MIR HARDWARE HERITAGE in 1994-1995. I've been told - not saying it's true - that my book helped NASA station planners "get it" as they struggled to figure out how to work with Russia. One high-level official called it "the Bible" in 1996, which is actually kind of sad given that it isn't all that in-depth. But I think the context it provided for the engineering was significant.

      Let me end by saying just this - the US is under threat, and I believe we should do whatever we must to counter the danger short of launching missiles. People in my country are dying because of Putin's poodles in the White House and Congress. If that means abandoning ISS, so be it. That's not what I think is necessary, however. I believe that we could gracefully separate the Russian segment from ISS if we made it a priority and applied our best efforts to the problem.

      But you suggest (whether you intend to or not) an interesting alternative option. I believe that SLS is a national heavy-lift capability we need, and that its detractors are motivated mainly by an Elon Musk obsession. What if we made launching a new Skylab its first task? That is, launch a full-up, ready-to-use core station? The Russians taught us how to build and operate space stations when you are too broke to have heavy-lift - we can get back to doing what we were doing in the 1960s - teaching the world what you can do when you can put up big things all in one go.

      I say we cut back on US use of ISS to get ready for our new Core Station. Keep the Russians on board, but make it really obvious that we're pulling out and moving up, and they aren't invited. Leave some Soyuz seats empty, test some Core Station hardware on ISS.

      I think the ultimate punishment would be to turn the US segment over to private space companies. They'd drive the Russians nuts. I expect the Russians would run away screaming after a couple of years, or would be forced to abandon ISS as the private companies failed and withdrew.


    2. Hello David,

      Since you invited a reply...

      "I believe that SLS is a national heavy-lift capability we need, and that its detractors are motivated mainly by an Elon Musk obsession. What if we made launching a new Skylab its first task? That is, launch a full-up, ready-to-use core station?"

      Actually, I think this would be a better use of its throw weight than a DSG or sightseeing missions orbiting the Moon - you are going to get more payload bang for your buck, until you can somehow find the funding for landers...

      But the basic objection to SLS really is (to reluctantly beat the dead horse) about its cost effectiveness. A launch vehicle you can only fly once every 12-18 months (which is the cadence NASA is looking at for the Block 1B in the 2020's) because you can't afford to build or fly it any more often severely limits its utility, to say nothing (as ASAP has pointed out) of risking compromise to safety. I mean...amortize out SLS/Orion development costs, and the missions it has reasonably manifested for the 2020's come to something like $6.7 billion per flight. It's no wonder there's no money left over for any actual payloads - landers, DSG modules or (yes) big Skylab-sized LEO station cores. I grant freely that Falcon Heavy cannot replicate SLS Block 1B's capabilities, especially beyond LEO, but its development cost zero tax dollars, and at $90/$95/150 million a pop, it's almost exponentially cheaper. And it will be the same story with New Glenn. I just refuse to accept that a super heavy lift launcher has to be *this* expensive and this slow to develop in the 21st century.

      There is a school of thought that there is no cheap, especially when it comes to HSF, and that if you want a serious BEO space program, you are gonna have to pony up for it, and pony big. This has motivated no end of effort among space advocates to boost NASA funding to that end. But after over four decades of effectively flat NASA budget (consistently $15-20 billion in 2018 real dollars), I really do despair at this point of that ever happening, barring a killer asteroid or alien artifact getting discovered in deep space. I find myself too young to have ever seen a Saturn V do its magic, and the prospect of being an old man before I see NASA do anything like it again, as EM-2 keeps sliding to the right (2023 now, and in all likelihood, even 2024 is optimistic). The political will is simply not there to do more, and NASA itself is no longer the nimble, bold, energized organization described in Charles Murray and Catherine Cox's Apollo: Race to the Moon, as even Murray and Cox themselves have noted.

      That being the case, I do find myself sharing the same thought you have that perhaps NASA's limited dollars would be better spent on robotic and space telescope exploration, at least for the next generation. They're still pretty darned good at that.

  10. What happened with David S. F. Portree? I fear the Body Snatchers are back! ;)

    But to be serious. It's important to note that the Russian foreign policy is just a mirror of the US foreign policy. They only demand the same rights, they use the same techniques and methods. Think about it!

    1. A:

      I care that my country is under attack, what that means for it, and how we can stop the attack, not what the Russians desire.


  11. The USSR broke up in 1991. It's time to stop with the Cold War mentality. Doing stuff like ending space cooperation only encourages it. Besides,many astronauts and cosmonauts have become friends over the last quarter century. No reason to stop that kind of thing now. Given a choice between what you propose and a Russian dominated America,the latter is what I'd choose.

  12. The comment from "Anonymous," time stamp 21 February 2018 07:06, is very likely the product of a Russian bot. These kinds of comments show up everywhere at present. I was curious whether this post would attract them. There have been others I have treated as spam, but I wanted to preserve at least one obvious example in the comment stream.


  13. "I would not be shocked if both the US and the Russian Federation have contingency plans for contending with failure of either the Russian or American segment."

    I sincerely hope they have! They'd be remiss in their duties if they have not. (Admittedly, my opinion is not evidence any such plans exist.)

    I want to keep my personal politics out of this as much as I can, but I will venture to say that if American/Russian relations take a dive, it will not be because of 2016 but something bad happening as a result result of too many different military forces operating too close to each other in Syria.

    David, I think you once opined that the Falcon 9 was a "barely proven" rocket. That was a while ago. Do you have a different opinion today? This report says the Falcon 9 still is not as reliable as its competition. Don't get me wrong--I would like very much for SpaceX to succeed, and the Falcon Heavy test flight made me happy.


    Someone (I think it was one of the Apollo astronauts, but I am so uncertain I won't repeat the name) said that if the President committed us to go to the moon today, instead of taking us 8 years it would take 16 because we'd spend more time in meetings. More recently we had an administration commit us to the moon with the development of the Ares I and Ares V rockets. The Ares I would use a Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME/RS-25) in the upper stage. The Ares V would use five RS-25 engines in its first stage. I think the upper stage would use an RS-25, but I can't remember. Then it was decided getting the RS-25 to start in flight was too difficult, and we would upgrade the classic J-2 engine; the new engine is called the J-2X. Also, we decided to use RS-68 instead of RS-25 engines in the Ares V first stage. (At the time it was said the cost of the RS-68 was an industry secret, but believed to be 40 percent as much as that of the RS-25). Then both rockets were canceled. I don't know how much money was spent on the J-2X. Too bad. How much did we spend on that project? We got the Space Launch System. At one point, we considered bringing back kerosene-fueled engines for it. Hooray! But the SLS uses the RS-25 engines in the first stage. Wait, what? The administration at that time tried to cancel the Orion spacecraft but Congress intervened. We also got Commercial Crew, of course.

    The new President has committed us to go back to the moon, but I am not aware of a real plan to do so. There might be some cool artist's conceptions of the mission that I haven't seen yet, but that's not a real plan. The previous administration said we would visit an asteroid in 2025 and go to Mars in 2035. Critics said without funding increases, we would not get to Mars before 2054. I lost the original source for this figure, did a search, and came up with this:


    I know Elon Musk wants to send large numbers of colonists to Mars. He admitted the Falcon Heavy was much harder to develop than he thought it would be. His Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) is going to be a lot more difficult than the Falcon Heavy.

    I don't think we're going back to the moon in 8 or 16 years because (1) we no longer have the focus necessary to stick to a long-term plan and (2) we don't have enough money to do all the things we say we are going to do.

    Will a crisis inspire us to get our act together? I hope so.

    1. Phil:

      Falcon 9 compared with most rockets in use around the world today is a very new rocket, and each launch that demonstrates a new capability is a test flight. It is obviously still in a "test" mode, even if it manages to accomplish most of its flight objectives most of the time. There's no way to reliably price it at this time despite the claims of fans. However, it does fly.

      Dragon for crew on the other hand, is years behind schedule and might not fly at all. Dragon for cargo seems to work most of the time. It would be handy if it could dock on its own - for example, if no one were on board the US segment - and if there were a "tanker" version that could raise ISS the way Progress does. Starliner might or might not fly, but if I had to choose, I would choose it for "emergency/accelerated" development as a crew vehicle because it can in theory fly on multiple rockets and because Boeing has more experience than SpaceX. SpaceX can, of course, build the piloted Dragon on its own dime, but if it looked as though they were distracting themselves from the cargo Dragon upgrades by doing so, there would need to be penalties.

      Basically, we would want to give obtaining a piloted spacecraft and cargo spacecraft the same kind of military top priority Apollo had. One reason we see the delays we do is that *no* program in the US piloted program has had the same top-level priority as Apollo. If Shuttle had that priority, for example, we would not, for example, have seen the company that made the sealant used on the ET change the formula - at least not without getting an OK from NASA. This actually happened, and when NASA asked if it could buy the old formula, it was told "no way, you are too small a customer for us to care."

      We don't have a President, at least not in the conventional sense, and I don't for a moment believe the person some call President has any interest in space or anything else he cannot personally profit from. A trillion-dollar tax cut for himself, his relatives, and those who co-own the GOP with the Russians means that we have no room for basics like terrestrial infrastructure, which makes space infrastructure pretty much forfeit.

      Will a crisis inspire us? Perhaps. The endless drumbeat of school shootings seems to have triggered a powerful reaction at last. Other crises are being ignored as usual, however, and if push came to shove, it's hard to imagine many people supporting NASA over more down-to-Earth needs.


  14. Well, Mr. Portree, I suscribe to your point of view, for many reasons.

    First, the time has come.

    ISS will be dead by 2025 and, most importantly, America soon will recover manned spaceflight, thanks to CTS-100 and Dragon 2.
    What's more, Bigelow is ready to provide a cheap and efficient space station with volume similar to the ISS.

    secondly, as you underline, times have changed. I think Clinton and Yeltsin did the right thing in 1993, and since then the ISS had proved its worth, particularly in the last decade.
    But today, Russia is disgusting. You rightly complain about them having rigged the Presidential election.
    But there is worse. Think about Ukraine and, most importantly, Syria. About Putin support to that insane criminal gassing his own people, Bastard Al Asshole (sorry, I meant Bachar al Assad).
    and I can tell you, as a Frenchman, that Putin also tried to wreck our presidential election, through the Le Pen family.
    So yes, I agree, It is time to drop ccoperation with Russia in space. and let their space program rot with the old soyuz, the flawes Vostochny launch pad, and the exploding rockets.

  15. Archibald:

    From my point of view, interfering in our elections is worse than the other things, though that might sound chauvinistic. The reason I think it is worse is that it helped a a mini-Putin take power in the US. Putin has what he wants - a compliant government in Washington, prepared to let him expand his influence around the world as long as it gets its cut of the profits. Hillary Clinton in the White House, even with a compliant GOP-dominated legislature, would have been a nightmare for Putin. As a former Secretary of State, she knew what Russia was up to. She would have stopped him at every turn.

    I am not as sure as you are that private space will save the NASA space program. However, I like the spirit of what you write. I'm ready to see us move toward a Gateway Architecture that spans Earth's Neighborhood. We might use Bigelow inflatables to establish the astronaut-tended Gateway Outpost at EML1 or EML2. They are, after all, subscale versions of NASA's Transhab. ISS is not a necessary part of the Gateway Architecture.

    The 2001 Gateway Architecture was all about large telescope servicing and Moon landings near the poles. I think those are worthy objectives for the NASA piloted program. Seeing continents on planets of other stars and exploring some of the coldest, most resource rich places in the inner Solar System are certainly goals with long-term significance.


    1. Yeah, the Gateway. Let's talk about it a bit. I've been following that "saga" over the last decade. It is one of my prefered option for the future. From EL-2 you can go everywhere - Moon and Mars and Asteroids. A smaller, inflatable space station build from a couple of Bigelow modules.

      Telescope servicing to SEL-2, cleaning dead GEO comsats, sortie to the lunar surface, and on, there is a lot of interesting missions to be done. I understand your mixed feelings about private spaceflight; considers that an Orion on a SLS could go to EML-2, and a Dragon 2 on a Falcon Heavy could be a backup vehicle.

      In fact in my ideal world, the Gateway is not stuck at EML-2 but MOBILE: thanks to electric propulsion, it can move between GEO and EML-1, then to LLO, to EML-2, to SEL-1, to SEL-2. The delta-v between these places are very small, much less than 1 km/s altogether. And to each place, a different mission. As NASA suggested, a small asteroid could be towed to EML-2. another interesting mission.

      So yes, the Gateway would be amazing.

    2. Archibald:

      The Gateway story became badly garbled in 2004 when Bush The Younger announced Shuttle cancellation, return to the Moon, and humans to Mars. The true story of the transition from Decadal Planning Team (DPT), which started in 1999 with the idea of preparing the way for an expansive space program during the Gore Administration, has never been told accurately, though an "official" version can be found. DPT is where the Gateway concept started. So, nearly 20 years ago.

      There's no need to move the Gateway station to new locations if it is to be used as a servicing platform because automated observatories can travel to it. It's likely best to keep the Gateway out of the space occupied by multiple observatories because of outgassing. There are also some observatories that don't want astronauts anywhere near them because they are too fragile.

      Everything I hear is that there's a lot of doubt about whether Dragon can be crew-rated even with some modest relaxation of NASA certification requirements. That's why I see it as a cargo vehicle, perhaps with some variants. I don't know the precise details, though abort capability seems to be part of the problem. In any case, SpaceX has confirmed that they have no plans to launch crew on Falcon Heavy.

      The Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) is a good example of what happens when I committee gets hold of a good idea. The original concept was to send Orion with some sort of Hab module to an NEO on a ~100-day mission. Then that was considered too costly, especially when (and this is downright weird) it was decided that a robotic mission should visit the asteroid first. Then it got weirder - grabbing a boulder - and finally NASA dropped the whole mess.

      What has been happening in the past couple of decades is that NASA has been called upon to come up with post-Shuttle/post-ISS objectives with no new money - in fact, after paying "private" companies which as often as not seem to want to compete with NASA. This while attempting to build a family of heavy-lift rockets.

      My attitude is that we should do what do in space well. If we are not prepared to pay the cost of humans in space, we should stop launching humans into space. Concentrate on robots. But if we plan to launch humans into space, and are willing to pay the price to actually do it, then the most realistic objective is the Gateway combined with large observatory servicing, lunar missions, and telerobotics experimentation.


    3. "Everything I hear is that there's a lot of doubt about whether Dragon can be crew-rated even with some modest relaxation of NASA certification requirements."

      Would that be something to do with the Dragon itself, or SpaceX wanting to fuel the Falcon 9 rocket after the astronauts get on board the Dragon, which is the opposite of what NASA wants? Someone told me that SpaceX is super-cooling the liquid oxygen to improve performance to "make their numbers work."

    4. Phil:

      I've not received a lot of details - the thing I've heard the most about is the abort system. I gather that there's concern that Dragon can't land safely on the ground after a pad abort. I don't know any details.

      Further up the comment stream someone referred to the "cliff" SpaceX must surmount to fly a piloted Dragon. Not sure what that entails, but it would seem to indicate that there is more than one difficult issue to be sorted.

      I've read comments that refer to unreasonable NASA requirements, but few that have described which requirements are unreasonable and why. Maybe someone will chime in here.


    5. Being myself a historian by training, plus a person with a long-standing interest in space, I have been an adomirer and follower of both Mr Portree's previous and current blog, however I think he has lost the plot a bit here. Some things I'll say don't have a direct relation to space, but the same applies to the particular post, so my comments are justified I think.
      First, regarding the claim that Russia has attacked ESA member-states. I am not sure what he means with that, but if he refers to the events in Ukraine, the fact is that Ukraine is not an ESA member, the only former republic that is an ESA member is Estonia. If with the term "attack" he means "interference", he should just use that term insted of attack, which reminds rather military type of terminology.
      Second, mr Portree refers to the "democratic" institutions of United States being "attacked", both in the post and in his replies to the various comments. The fundamental idea behind the concept of democracy, is majority rule. The very fact that United States has an electoral system (let's not refer to other aspects of how its institutions work) that allows somebody who has received less popular votes to be elected president, ridicules any notion of "democracy" in the United States. The best thing United States has to do is exactly to create such institutions, with an electoral system that ensures true majority rule as a start.
      Third, whatever Russian meddling took place, if it took place in the first place of course, surely pales in comparison to the United States open support for Yeltsin's crimes against democracy in Russia and the use of the military and security forces against the Russian parliament, something that has often been described as a coup against Yeltsin in the US, by Mark Wade in Encyclopedia Astronautica for example, while it was the other way around, of course that's just an example, and not even among the most blatant examples of US interference and support for anti-democratic actions around the planet, I am referring to it simply because of the references to russian meddling in the US elections.
      Regarding "Putinology", apart from Syria, which is the one clear example of Russia intervening outside the former USSR, although it is by no means the first country to intervene militarily in the conflict there. However, regarding conflicts in former Soviet republics, the conflict in Eastern Ukraine has many similarities with the conflict in Moldova and more specifically in the region of Transnistria in the early '90s, during Yeltsin's rule. Did anybody talk about a new cold war, Russia threatening the West etc at the time? No. The reality is more prosaic, although the dissolution of USSR went relatively peacefully and very fortunately so, territorial disputes and conflicts within or between former Soviet republics have been a constant reality since the early '90s, Ukraine is nothing new in that respect.
      Regarding space, truly big steps will require partnerships between nations, as well as the public and the private sectors, so cooperation is the only way ahead, regardless of whatever problems exist in purely terrestrial issues. When it comes more specifically to ISS however, the only reason for this project to continue, particularly in the long term, is if there is true will for crewed interplanetary flights, because the sole true purpose for a space station is to function as an in-space simulator for an interplanetary spacecraft, otherwise thay make no sense at all, placing lives at risk for no real purpose.

    6. A:

      It's unfortunate that you do not use your name, since you obviously pay attention and you make good points. I'd be glad to know who you are. But anonymity is always OK here.

      My post touches on many things, often in passing, because I wanted to focus on spaceflight issues more than US domestic and geopolitical ones. I've always seen keeping up with current events as a hobby, so I spend a lot of time reading papers and listening to foreign and domestic news sources. I get a foretaste of what is coming - often derided as kooky nonsense, until it turns out to be true - by reading partisan (or at least fringe) Internet news sources. At the same time, I have no idea what is going on in my community because I don't pay attention to local news at all.

      Russia employs psychological warfare and cyber warfare on an unprecedented scale, and has worked closely with traitors in the West to move/launder huge amounts of money and gain influence. Officials in our government and our military have called what they did to install Trump in the White House an "ongoing attack." So far, a complicit GOP has prevented us from adequately defending ourselves. The story is complex and we've only exposed its surface layers.

      The Netherlands and France modified how they conducted their most recent elections because of Russian activities and there is evidence of messing about in the Baltic countries, Greece, Turkey, Sweden, Norway, Canada, and Germany, to name a few. Germany and the Netherlands warned the US of Russian attacks occurring around the world, including in the US, ahead of the 2016 elections. I am surprised that you are unaware of these attacks.

      I do not want to split hairs over what constitutes an "attack," except to say that when highly placed people in multiple governments use the term, I feel safe in doing so, too.

      Frankly, I do not care about US attacks on Russia. We have for decades imposed economic sanctions, boycotts, and the like. We have conducted espionage. Yeltsin was a saint compared to Putin - as my post states, however, the oligarchs began their rise under Yeltsin. But these things do not matter as much as what is happening *now,* in my country.

      The US engaged in economic and diplomatic conflict with Japan before Pearl Harbor. Would you defend Japan - say we should have handed them Hawaii after they attacked it? I do not believe that we should have done that. I also do not believe that we should have put people of Japanese ancestry in the US in camps. But we did, and I still do not think we should have handed over Hawaii.

      Compared with our democracy and the rule of law, space matters very little. I do not care if placing sanctions on Russia - including ending our ISS partnership - means an end to some of our space activities.

      You touch on a crucial point - what is ISS for? It was built to prop up Russian aerospace. Does it still do that? I am not sure. If it does not, then the original geopolitical justification is gone. Does ISS need the Russians if the geopolitical justification is gone? Yes, as long as we do not replace the capabilities they provide. If we replace the capabilities they provide, we have no further need of them. We are working toward this goal in any case, by funding alternative means of crew and cargo access.

      I don't want to get into long-range ISS objectives because there are issues at hand that are more important than those objectives. We need to focus on the issues that face us now, not our dreams of the future. This is always the case in a country when it is attacked from outside.



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