Was this provocation too much? After his latest outrage – the staging of astronauts waving the flags of Ukraine’s separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk on the ISS – the boss of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozhin, was fired from his post. Functions of the Kremlin. Without comment or argument, the news read in the form of two decrees signed by Vladimir Putin on Friday: the first announcing that Rogzin was leaving his post as director general of the Roscosmos organization; The second, published a minute later, named his successor, who assumed office immediately. This is Yuri Borisov, who until now was the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian government in charge of defense and space industry. And there you go. Chapter closed.
It was a long chapter in the history of Roscosmos – Dmitry Rogzin was appointed head in May 2018 – and above all an eventful chapter from the beginning of this year. The far-right politician (he founded a nationalist party in 2003) has not refrained from using the Russian space agency to systematically humiliate, ridicule and threaten all voices opposing the war in Ukraine.
At the end of February, Rogzin had already promised to bring down the International Space Station in retaliation for the sanctions imposed on Russia by the Americans and Europeans. (“If you block cooperation with us, who will protect the ISS from uncontrolled deorbiting and falling on the US or Europe?”). The Russians are indeed responsible for controlling the height of the ISS, but they have no interest in bringing down the 500-ton station: they’d be shooting themselves in the foot and the Americans would be controlling critical systems. For the survival of all astronauts in orbit. This interdependence is at the heart of international cooperation on the ISS.
But it is not the truth, the sense of realism and proportion that suffocates Dmitry Rogzin. At the end of February, he posted a video montage on social networks of Russian cosmonauts saying goodbye to American astronaut Mark Vande Hei before detaching the entire Russian section from the ISS – while Russia was responsible for bringing Vande Hei back to Earth in a capsule. Soyuz. State media Ria Novosti, which aired the video, had to mention it with a comment that it was “A Joke from Roscosmos Video Studios”, While the American press was already choking with horror at the sight of its astronaut abandoned alone in space.
A few days later, Rogjin released another video of his own where we see workers covering the rocket with UK, Japanese and US flags. Soyuz. “Our launchers at Baikonur decided that our rockets would look better without the flags of certain countries”, said the tweet accompanying the video. One followed A memorable battle Between Rogzin and the American astronaut Scott Kelly, which ended, like a playground, with a threat and insult on the forehead was immediately deleted by its author (Russian).
“Relations between astronauts and cosmonauts not severed”
But cooperation between critical individuals on the ISS continued. “It’s just Dmitry Rogzin, he talks nonsense from time to time, but he continues to work with us”, NASA’s new boss, Bill Nelson, commented after the episode. “Other people who work in the Russian civilian space program are very professional. The relationship between astronauts and astronauts has not been severed. NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency all confirmed in a letter to Roscosmos that they are committed to ensuring the operation of the ISS together.
And indeed, international cooperation seems to be even stronger. On Friday, the same day Rogzin was fired, Dana Weigel, an ISS program manager at NASA, announced the signing of an agreement between the U.S. space agency and its Russian counterpart to exchange astronauts and space shuttle seats. For future missions, which begin in September, an American will stay aboard a capsule Soyuz A Russian would board a ship to join the ISS (as they systematically did between 2011 and 2020) and vice versa. Crew Dragon Among SpaceX’s Western colleagues (which would be the first). The deal had been under negotiation for months. While waiting for the final signature, in recent weeks, space travelers have already been training as if it had been concluded: Frank Rubio is pursuing training reserved for astronauts who travel. Soyuz And Anna Kikina participates in training at SpaceX.
New partner for ExoMars mission
The Europeans will no doubt do it more easily, without having to suffer the constant invective of Dmitry Rogozin. Roscosmos’ boss had the last word for ESA, which on July 12 ended its cooperation with the Russians for the ExoMars mission to Mars. The board of the European Space Agency held a vote in mid-March and concluded that it was “It is impossible to continue cooperation with Roscosmos”. “While recognizing the impact of scientific exploration of space, ESA aligns itself with the sanctions imposed on Russia by its member states”, Press release announcement published by ESA, which expressed regret “The Tragic Consequences of Aggression Against Ukraine”. Since then suspended, Russian-European cooperation for this mission is now definitively over.
Rogjin immediately struck back at the telegram. “[Le directeur de l’ESA] Is he ready to respond to the sabotage of the Mars mission? Not in front of irresponsible bureaucrats in the European Commission, but in front of humanity? He wrote, ordering the Russian crew to the ISS “European manipulator arm to stop working with ERA”, An eleven meter long robotic articulated arm was launched into orbit in July 2021. But his order is no longer likely to be enforced.
On Wednesday, during a press conference, ESA should reveal in more detail its plans to move forward with the ExoMars mission with new partners. Representatives from NASA and the British Space Agency will be in attendance.