Will NASA say ‘nyet’ to joint plans with Russia?


NASA curtails operations with Russia – most recent announcement exempts ‘big-ticket items’ like ISS cooperation, but covers any other collaborative ventures such as travel to Russia/US, visits to facilities, conferences, telecons, etc. Next Russian resupply mission comes on April 9th. SpaceX will resupply in early May. Mars is at opposition tomorrow – means it’s position in the sky is directly opposite that of the sun. For us that means Mars is visible all night from sunset to sunrise. Jupiter is to the right of the moon tonight. The moon continues to step farther east every day watch it progress toward full moon next week and total lunar eclipse next Tuesday morning. If you’re up late doing your taxes next Monday night, take a look at the moon between 2:30 and 3:15 am. It’ll be nice and red during the eclipse.

April 7, 2014


[Dave Heller] Scientists are detecting an inverse relationship between temperatures on Earth and those in outer space. Let’s look at the trend with Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute. Derrick, that UN Global Warming Report came out this week, but it’s getting chillier in outer space.

[Derrick Pitts] It seems as if it’s getting chillier in outer space because the relations between the Americans and the Russians as far as NASA is concerned has taken on a sudden chill. NASA has announced that they are curtailing all of their Russian engagements except for the big ticket items. So what they’re saying is that for every other kind of work that they do with Russia outside of International Space Station, NASA is curtailing, cutting back, canceling, all of its interactions with Russia — except for those related to International Space Station.

To which Russia has responded?

To which Russia has responded: You know, that’s fine if you want to do that. We’re not going to play with you either, except for International Space Station.

But where do you draw that line? Don’t things that happen on Earth play a big role in what happens in International Space Station?

It would seem as if they would, because you know there’s all this sort of, you know, jibber-jabber talk back and forth, trash-talking, between the United States and Russia about various things going on in the Ukraine and Crimea. The fact of the matter is that International Space Station is a hundred billion-dollar operation. And to build and launch and maintain it is a major undertaking on both sides — both in ground-based operations and the on-orbit operations. Neither country, neither space agency is interested in some sort of calamity that could blow up in a very, very nasty way for either agency or both agencies should something go wrong simply because of the political climate on Earth. And let’s not forget the US and Russian relations in terms of space has always been good, congenial and cooperative regardless of what the political situation on Earth has been.

  • ukraine

    A masked man stands atop of a barricade at the regional administration building in Donetsk, Ukraine, Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Pro-Russia demonstrators continued occupying the Donetsk regional administration in the nearby region and calling for a referendum. (AP Photo/Andrey Basevich)

Though the initial Space Race was based on competition rather than collaboration.

Absolutely, it certainly was. But once the Russians realized they weren’t going to make it to the moon before America, they dropped out, didn’t say anything to us — but that was back when it was the Soviet Union. Since then, US / Russian relations has been very, very good in the sciences and space exploration even though we may not have been fully aware of all of those details. And we have been presented in the public sector with the pretext that there’s some sense of competition between the two countries that no longer exists.

Derrick, what’s your sense? Like a matador with a cape, are we being distracted by the words but actually the deeds don’t correspond in terms of a real uncoupling of relations?

I totally believe that it’s a political smokescreen. And that’s what I think is going on. Everybody in NASA knows, everybody in Roscosmos knows that this is a very, very sensitive job to do, very, very difficult, very important that relies heavily on both sides providing what resources they have for the sake and safety of the astronauts on board, for the sake and safety of launch vehicles, for the safety and sake of the spacecraft itself — International Space Station — and all of its operations that everybody gets along well. I’m certain, I’m certain that once a week at least Russians and Americans in high places are toasting each other with vodka and whiskey, keeping the lines of communication open and well flowing.

Derrick, let’s come home and check out what’s overhead this week.

It’s a beautiful night sky overhead. Not only do we have beautiful planets in the evening sky, Mars is rising just after sunset. Jupiter’s already high in the west at sunset; both planets are visible well into the evening. Mars, however, reaches its opposition point — its halfway point around the sky — tomorrow night, so it’s visible now all night, rising as the sun sets, setting as the sun rises. Jupiter and the moon are dancing around each other; we’ll find that the moon is just to the left of Jupiter tonight. And as we move forward into the rest of the week and next week, the moon steps just a little bit everyday further to the east. So we can watch as it not only grows in its phase, but as it continues around in its orbit around the Earth, the most significant point coming early next Tuesday morning when the moon arrives at a position that’s directly opposite the sun in the sky and we see the first total lunar eclipse of this year.

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