STORY: The head of Russia’s space agency publicly signaled his country's intent to withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024… but NASA says that’s news to them.
Video on Tuesday showed Yuri Borisov, Russia's newly appointed space chief, sitting down with Russian president Vladimir Putin, and saying this:
"As you know, we operate in international cooperation at the International Space Station. Without a doubt, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners. But the decision to withdraw from the station after 2024 has been taken. I think that by this time we will start to form a Russian orbital station."
Russian space agency Roscosmos even released an image of its proposed new space station.
But NASA’s ISS director Robyn Gatens said the Russians have communicated no such intent, as required by the intergovernmental agreement on the station.
STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN NED PRICE: "I understand that we were taken by surprise by the public statement that went out…."
And State Department spokesperson Ned Price also acknowledged Russia’s unexpected move.
“It’s an unfortunate development, given the critical scientific work performed at the ISS, the valuable professional collaboration our space agencies have had over the years, and especially in light of our renewed agreement on spaceflight cooperation.”
The ISS arrangement between the U.S. and Russia is one of the last civil links between the two countries, as relations have sunk to their lowest point since the Cold War over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A football field-sized orbital laboratory some 400 kilometers, or 250 miles, above Earth, the station counts Canada, Japan and the European Space Agency as other key partners.
But Russia and the U.S. are regarded as the outpost's core stakeholders. Russian thrusters control the station's position, while an American power grid keeps the outpost running.
Officials had been working on keeping that partnership in place through 2030, and earlier this month Russia and the U.S. agreed to resume sharing astronaut flights to the ISS.