Russia has decided to quit the International Space Station after 2024, the newly-appointed chief of Moscow’s space agency told President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
The shocking announcement comes amidst tensions between the Kremlin and the West over Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine and the West’s several rounds of sanctions against Russia.
Moscow and Washington have worked together on the ISS, which has been in orbit since 1998.
“Of course, we will fulfill all our obligations to our partners, but the decision to leave this station after 2024 has been made,” Yury Borisov, who was appointed Roscosmos chief in July, told Putin.
“I think that by this time we will start putting together a Russian orbital station,” Borisov added, calling it the space programme’s main “priority”.
“Good,” Putin replied in comments released by the Kremlin.
This information ends the years of collaboration between Russia and the United States. Space exploration was one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the US and its allies had not been destroyed by tensions over Ukraine.
Borisov said he would seek “to raise the bar, and first of all, to provide the Russian economy with the necessary space services,” the services being, navigation, communication, and data transmission, among other things.
The Soviet space programme boasts several accomplishments such as sending the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first satellite four years earlier. These successes remain a major source of national pride in Russia.
However, experts say that the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, remains a mere shadow of its former self and has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including corruption scandals and the loss of a number of satellites and other spacecraft.