There was a time when the idea of the International Space Station could only be seen as an illusion. After all, the manned space program of the United States and the Soviet Union began primarily as a Cold War race to see which country will weaponize low-Earth orbit first and ensure that military strategists believe it will be the ultimate commanding height. Those early rockets were far away from intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). They had as much fuel as kerosene and liquid oxygen, and they competed fiercely.
Fortunately, a cool head prevailed.Soviet Union Almaz The space station may carry a 23mm cannon modified from a Tu-22 bomber tail gun to withstand any American vehicles that get too close, but the weapon never fired in anger. In the end, the two countries even saw the advantages of cooperation. In 1975, a joint mission completed the final Apollo capsule docking with the Soyuz through a special adapter designed to compensate for the different docking hardware used on the two spacecraft.
Relations improved further after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the US space shuttle went to Russia nine times Mir The space station between 1995 and 1997. A new era of cooperation between the world’s outstanding aerospace nations has begun, and the engineering lessons learned during the space shuttle-Mir As planned, engineers from the two space agencies began to lay the foundation for the project that would eventually become the International Space Station.
Unfortunately, after the United States and Russia have occupied the International Space Station for more than two decades, this tentative scientific alliance seems to have finally begun to crack. With accusations about who should be responsible for a series of serious accidents in the orbital laboratory, the prospects for future international cooperation in Earth orbit and other regions have never been so bad since the height of the Cold War.
Wild trip at the station
The most recent drama started with the long-awaited Russian matchmaking Nauka July 29th module. Although it was a success in the end, the process did not go smoothly, causing passengers at the station to ride unexpectedly.
After more than ten years of delay and redesign, Nauka Even if things go according to plan, it will be a historic event.The new multifunctional module has a length of 13 meters (43 feet) and a mass of 20,300 kg (44,800 lb), except for Charia with Zvezda As the core part of the station during the initial construction period. The new module is not only known for its size. As the space shuttle is no longer in service, Nauka You must fly to the International Space Station on your own and do autonomous docking; the transportation and installation methods of most modules are completely different from before.
Although there were some glitches in the early days, everything seemed to go according to plan. The Russian astronauts were about to open the hatch, and the new module suddenly began to launch the propeller. Preliminary investigation determined that Nauka’s The navigation computer mistakenly believed that it was still in free flight mode, and for reasons not fully understood, its automated system tried to withdraw it from the space station. But when the module is firmly connected to the docking port at the bottom of the International Space Station, Nauka’s Instead, the thruster begins to rotate the entire complex around its center of mass.
The guidance system of the space station noticed the deviation from its expected position and tried to compensate with the control moment gyroscope (CMG). When this is not enough to stop the rotation, Zvezda Module, the Progress MS-17 supply vehicle that finally stopped was ordered to fire in the direction of rotation. Although NASA’s initial estimate claimed that the space station had only rotated 45° from its expected attitude, the agency has since admitted that it has rotated 540° in the course of approximately 45 minutes.
The speed of rotation was low enough that the crew reportedly did not notice it before being notified by the mission control center, but the tug-of-war between the modules that caused the very unusual maneuver put the space station’s structure under pressure that it had never designed before. The slow roll also made communication difficult, as the space station’s antenna was constantly being pulled away from its intended alignment. NASA flight director Zebulon Scoville on duty decided to formally declare a “spacecraft emergency.” If the crew is ordered to evacuate, the docked SpaceX Crew Dragon will be activated.
Scoville Explained in an interview New York Times, The crew on the space station and the mission control center in Houston are actually incapable of commanding Nauka In the ordeal. Since the module has not been fully integrated into the space station’s system, it can only be controlled by the Russian ground station, but none of them are within range. In the end, it was thought that the module’s thrusters stopped launching only because the propellant ran out.
In a stern article published IEEE Spectrum, Former NASA engineer James Oberg said the accident is a worrying sign that the space agency is regaining its complacency. That doomed the space shuttle Challenger with ColombiaSpecifically, he questioned the decision-making process of allowing Russia to dock such a large and powerful module with the International Space Station without any crew or mission control center to direct it in an emergency, and called for an independent investigation to determine the international Politics takes precedence over crew safety.
Obviously, in order to control the damage, the Russian news agency TASS published an article rebutting its claims Western journalists systematically tried to spread suspicion in the country’s space programWith the support of a senior official in Roscosmos who did not want to be named, the author Mikhail Kotov tried to refute the twelve criticisms he pointed out in reports in various publications Ars Technica with Daily Beast.
Many claims are related to funds, or more accurately, to lack of funds. But Kotov dismissed Roscosmos’s meager budget that led to poor engineering quality or limited innovation. In fact, he retorted that fiscal conservatism is one of the agency’s core strengths. The article also continued to explain the country’s efforts to replace Soviet-era facilities, spacecraft and boosters.
If it weren’t for the hole found in the Soyuz capsule during the 2018 investigation, it’s not the product’s unusually provocative and completely unfounded statement, which has long been considered an assembly error, but it’s American astronaut Serena Onion. The prime minister’s deliberate sabotage. Kotov quoted an anonymous official as saying that for the first time the astronaut may suffer an “acute psychological crisis” due to a blood clot in the neck, and she may damage the Soyuz capsule to speed the astronaut’s return to Earth.
In response to this unprecedented personal attack on one of their astronauts, as well as possible unauthorized disclosure of the private medical conditions she may have suffered while in orbit, NASA obviously can only respond in the mildest way. Kathy Lueders, head of NASA’s manned space program On Twitter that the agency supports its astronauts And they do not believe that these allegations have any credibility. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson later reposted Ludd’s news, but did not add an official post on the agency’s public relations website.
When it comes to defending the reputation of Prime Minister Onion, a woman who has dedicated more than ten years to the agency, NASA seems to think that a 37-word tweet is enough. Except that the government is more worried about the political consequences that are completely contradictory to Roscosmos, rather than the career of one of the astronauts, it is difficult to see such a response.
NASA and most of its international partners have pledged to support the International Space Station by 2028 or 2030, but Russia has been reluctant to commit to extending its participation beyond 2024.On June 7, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of the Russian Space Agency, was quoted as saying Russia will terminate its participation in the International Space Station program in 2025 If the White House does not lift the sanctions imposed on the country by the United States. Earlier this year, Roscosmos also mentioned concerns about the age of the International Space Station This is one of the reasons they plan to launch a domestic development outpost called the Russian Orbital Service Station (ROSS) into near polar orbit. Its proposed Earth route would make ROSS an ideal platform for observing Russia and the North Pole, but it is basically out of reach for a spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral.
The widening rift between the two countries will not end in low Earth orbit.Although they hope they can provide a module for NASA’s lunar portal, Russia is No longer listed as an international partner of NASA projectsInstead, Roscosmos and China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced plans to build what they call the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS).
Robotic outposts will largely avoid human explorers and instead use advanced landers, telescopes and highly mobile rover. Neither country has provided a clear timetable for the development and construction of ILRS, but it is expected that it will not be put into use until the 2030s. The short-term human mission for ILRS, if it happens, will not begin until around 2040.
Although Russia will almost certainly continue to participate in the International Space Station program before ROSS is put into use, it is clear that the country’s scientific alliance with the United States is about to end. Although the relationship between the White House and the Kremlin will improve in the next few years, the Russian Federal Space Agency may contribute to NASA’s Artemis moon landing program in a certain capacity, but it is the United States to share space technology with China. A glimmer of life that is unlikely to be crossed.