In a series of bizarre and somewhat threatening Twitter posts this week that at times resembled a rant, Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, suggested that American sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine could result in the International Space Station crashing into the U.S., Europe, India, or China.
While the U.S. and Russia have long collaborated successfully on the ISS, incidents in recent years and the current war in Ukraine might finally be putting things at a breaking point. Rogozin’s tweets appeared to be a response to the sanctions announced on Thursday by President Joe Biden, which he said would “degrade [Russia’s] aerospace industry, including their space program.”
The president stated that sanctions from the U.S. and its allies will cut off more than half of Russia’s high-tech imports, including sensitive technology like semiconductors, telecommunications, sensors, navigation, and avionics.
“Do you want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS?” Rogozin tweeted in Russian on Thursday, according to a translation provided by Google Translate.
In Rogozin’s view, this would be more detrimental to the U.S. than to Russia, or so he claimed. The Roscosmos chief tweeted that the ISS relies on Russia’s Progress spacecraft to correct the space station’s orbit, which is true, and help it avoid space trash. As pointed out by the Verge, without Russia’s help, the space station would fall out of orbit and crash back into Earth at a random location. This scenario is undoubtedly alarming but wouldn’t happen immediately; experts that spoke to the Verge said it would likely play out over several years.
Consequently, NASA would have to come up with a new method to keep the ISS on the right path.
“If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe?” Rogozin tweeted. “There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?”
Rogozin added that those who create sanctions should be checked for Alzheimer’s disease “to prevent your sanctions from falling on your head,” literally.
Gizmodo reached out to NASA on Friday to ask for comment on the future of U.S.-Russia cooperation in space but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
In a statement to the Verge, NASA stated that it’s continuing to work with all international partners, including Roscosmos “for the ongoing safe operations of the International Space Station.” Roscosmos, for its part, also said it was still fulfilling its “international obligations.”
The ISS is currently housing seven astronauts: NASA astronauts Kayla Barron, Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Mark Vande Hei; Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov; and European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer.
“The new export control measures will continue to allow US-Russia civil space cooperation. No changes are planned to the agency’s support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations,” NASA spokesperson Josh Finch told the outlet.
Despite Rogozin’s tweets, Russia won’t be able to threaten the U.S., and other countries, with letting the ISS crash into Earth forever. NASA already has plans to retire and crash the space station into the Pacific Ocean in 2030. Those plans currently rely on Russia’s help, though, and might have to be changed if the relationship between both continues gets even worse.
You can read Rogozin’s full Twitter rant (all caps his) below. The original thread is here.
SANCTIONS OF ALZHEIMER
Biden said the new sanctions would affect the Russian space program. OK. It remains to find out the details: 1. Do you want to block our access to radiation-resistant space microelectronics? So you already did it quite officially in 2014.
As you noticed, we, nevertheless, continue to make our own spacecraft. And we will do them by expanding the production of the necessary components and devices at home. 2. Do you want to ban all countries from launching their spacecraft on the most reliable Russian rockets in the world?
This is how you are already doing it and are planning to finally destroy the world market of space competition from January 1, 2023 by imposing sanctions on our launch vehicles. We are aware. This is also not news. We are ready to act here too. 3. Do you want to destroy our cooperation on the ISS?
This is how you already do it by limiting exchanges between our cosmonaut and astronaut training centers. Or do you want to manage the ISS yourself? Maybe President Biden is off topic, so explain to him that the correction of the station’s orbit, its avoidance of dangerous rendezvous with space ..
garbage, with which your talented businessmen have polluted the near-Earth orbit, is produced exclusively by the engines of the Russian Progress MS cargo ships. If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or…
Europe? There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect? The ISS does not fly over Russia, so all the risks are yours. Are you ready for them?
Gentlemen, when planning sanctions, check those who generate them for illness
Alzheimer’s. Just in case. To prevent your sanctions from falling on your head. And not only in a figurative sense.
Therefore, for the time being, as a partner, I suggest that you do not behave like an irresponsible gamer, disavow the statement about “Alzheimer’s sanctions”. Friendly advice