Head of Russian space program calls for more international cooperation in NASA’s Moon plans

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The head of Russia’s space program said today that NASA’s plans to send people back to the Moon are “too US-centric” for Russia to participate. He has been critical of the program in the past and now says that Russia would only be open to participating if the Moon plans were more focused on international cooperation.

“The most important thing here would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation that we’ve all used” to fly the ISS, Dmitry Rogozin, the director-general of Roscosmos, said through a translator during a virtual press conference at the International Astronautical Congress. He added: “If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program, then Roscosmos could also consider its participation.”

Rogozin has made it clear that he is not a fan of NASA’s Moon program, an initiative called Artemis that aims to send the first woman to the lunar surface. Part of the program’s design calls for building a space station around the Moon, known as the Lunar Gateway, which would serve as an orbiting outpost for astronauts to visit before heading down to the surface of the Moon.

NASA has already partnered with some international agencies for Artemis — notably, Canada and Europe — but the US space agency is spearheading almost all of the major elements of the program, including the rockets, capsules, landers, and modules needed for the Gateway. And Rogozin has been vocal about his dislike of the US-led approach.

“For the United States, this is now more of a political project,” Rogozin told the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda in July. “With the lunar project, we are observing the departure of our American partners from the principles of cooperation and mutual support that developed during cooperation on the ISS. They see their program not as international, but similar to NATO. There is America, everyone else must help and pay. To be honest, we are not interested in participating in such a project.”

Rogozin has also expressed disdain for NASA’s Artemis Accords, a set of guidelines that the space agency and the US State Department developed for countries to adhere to when exploring the Moon. The accords call for a standard set of rules on how to mine the Moon and places that need to be protected on the lunar surface, such as the Apollo landing sites. Rogozin likened the accords to “an invasion” in a now-deleted tweet.

Today, Rogozin doubled down on his comments about Artemis. “In our view, Lunar Gateway in its current form is too US centric,” he said during the press conference, noting that Russia “is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale.” However, Rogozin did say that he hopes the Gateway has a docking port that will allow future Russian spacecraft to attach to the station if necessary. “If Russia builds its own space transportation system, we need to have an opportunity to dock” with the Gateway, Rogozin said.

NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine, who was also present during the press conference, attempted to respond to Rogozin’s comments about international cooperation, but the conversation moved on to the next question. Bridenstine did tell Reuters in July that he holds hope that NASA and Roscosmos will continue to work together. “I’ve got a good relationship with Dmitri Rogozin, so I’m hopeful that there are opportunities for us to continue to collaborate,” he told Reuters.

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