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NASA says no ‘official word’ from Russia on quitting ISS

In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to build such a spacecraft as early as 2024. Source: NASA/Reuters.

WASHINGTON: The United States hasn’t received “any official word” from Russia on its just-announced plans to quit the International Space Station “after 2024,” a senior NASA official said Tuesday.

“We haven’t received any official word from the partner as to the news today,” director of the ISS for NASA, Robyn Gatens, said during a conference on the outpost.

NASA itself plans to retire the ISS — a symbol of post Cold War unity — after 2030 as it transitions to working with commercial space stations, and Gatens suggested Russia might be thinking about its own transition.

Asked whether she wanted the US-Russia space relationship to end, she replied: “No, absolutely not.”

“They have been good partners, as all of our partners are, and we want to continue together as the partnership to continue operating space station through the decade.”

Gatens was responding to an announcement by newly appointed Roscosmos chief Yury Borisov.

“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” Borisov told Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I think that by this time we will start putting together a Russian orbital station,” Borisov added, calling it the space program’s main “priority.”

“Good,” Putin replied in comments released by the Kremlin.

Until now, space exploration was one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the United States and its allies had not been wrecked by tensions over Ukraine and elsewhere.

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