The head of the Russian space agency has just threatened the US and NASA with some serious repercussions if the Biden Administration follows through with sanctions that would impact the cooperation between the two countries in space.
Should the US cut off Russia's access to certain space technologies needed to keep the International Space Station operational, then the end result might involve the Russians allowing the International Space Station to simply tumble out of orbit and come rocketing back toward Earth.
Russia is a key player in the 15-nation partnership that has kept the ISS orbiting Earth for 23 years, but bilateral ties between the US and Russia have deteriorated substantially over the past year.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden laid out new sanctions that he said would "degrade" Russia's "aerospace industry, including their space program", among other things.
Source: The Sun
In response to Biden's sanctions announcement, the chief of Russia's space program took to Twitter, asking whether the US wanted to "destroy our cooperation on the ISS." Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin warned that Russian engines control the station's orbit and location. Without them, the ISS would be in serious trouble.
One potentially disastrous result of the sanctions would be the "uncontrolled de-orbit" of the 500-ton space station structure, likely sending it tumbling out of the sky and falling toward the US or potentially even Europe.
"If you block cooperation with us, who will save the International Space Station (ISS) from an uncontrolled de-orbit and fall into the United States or...Europe?" he said.
"There is also the possibility of a 500-ton structure falling on India and China...do you want that?"
Back in North America, the message about cooperation in space couldn't have been more different: NASA insisted that the new sanctions on Russia wouldn't have any impact on the agency's ability to manage the ISS, along with other collaborative space projects.
In a media statement on Friday, a NASA representative said the agency "continues working with all our international partners, including the State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the ongoing safe operations of the International Space Station."
"The new export control measures will continue to allow US-Russia civil space cooperation. No changes are planned to the agency's support for ongoing in orbit and ground station operations," they said.
The ISS is a collaboration between the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency. Presently, there are two Russian cosmonauts, four NASA astronauts, and one European astronaut living and working on board the space station.