Two decades of space cooperation between the U.S. and Russia could be coming to an end after the U.S. and its allies imposed crippling sanctions on the country. The Russian government announced Friday that it might abandon a U.S. astronaut set to return to Earth.
Fox News reports that the Russian Space Agency head, Dmitry Rogozin, has "threatened to leave" U.S. astronaut Mark Vande Hei aboard the International Space Station (ISS), who is scheduled to return to Earth on a Russian spacecraft by the end of the month.
JUST IN: Russia threatens to abandon 'American Astronaut' in spacepic.twitter.com/ybTrf8TR8e— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) March 11, 2022
"Rogozin posted a threatening video on social media casting doubt over the astronaut's safety. He also warned that without the help from Russia to move the ISS away from space junk, the station would crash into the U.S.," reports the Express.
Relations in space are souring as the U.S. and its Western allies hammer Russia's economy with devastating sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. This angered Moscow so much that they threatened to deorbit the ISS last month.
Former U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly recently told ABC News that Russia's threat to the safety of Americans on ISS is "not really based on reality."
"We do have the ability to control the orbit of the space station independent of the Russian space agency, so I don't really see that happening," Kelly said.
Even if the Russians were to abandon the U.S. astronaut and ISS altogether, Elon Musk has suggested his space company SpaceX could keep the ISS from deorbiting and even shuttle astronauts and cargo to and from Earth.
Vande Hei holds the record for longest space flight (at 355 days). It remains to be seen in three weeks if the Russians will allow him to board the spacecraft bound for Kazakhstan with two Russian cosmonauts. If not, maybe Musk can send a rocket with a Dragon capsule to the ISS.
Things are so bad between the U.S. and Russia that Rogozin ordered flags of the U.S. and its allies to be removed off Russian rockets.