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Impacts Of Russia’s Political Tensions on Space Missions

  Who are we? In an Astronomical sense, we are Earthlings. Many factors contribute to our miraculous existence, one of which is belonging to a planet that lies in the Goldilocks zone, i.e. in the Habitable zone, which allows us to exist in peace. Our world is beautiful from space without borders, but human traits and evolution have created a rift amongst various races, nations and peoples. 

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

               Fig: Pale Blue dot Image Credits: NASA

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it lives everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilisation, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a tiny stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilt by generals and emperors who sought glory and triumph so that they could become the momentary masters on a fraction of a dot. If we ponder over the endless cruelties that visit inhabitants of one corner of this pixel, they are scarcely distinguishable from inhabitants of another corner, how frequently people create misunderstandings, how people kill one another with hatred.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbour life. At least in the near future, there is nowhere else to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, Earth is the only place we can truly call home in this cosmic vastness.

While disagreements will arise amongst humans, violence should never be considered an answer. We have to hold our head high and take pride in the fact that we are the most intelligent species on the planet, but what is the use of this intelligence if we are unable to protect the flora, fauna and fellow humans of the planet.

 Wars are always destructive and painful. Whatever we are witnessing is out of our school syllabus- we don’t know the answers to the questions being asked. The ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia leading to war have severely impacted the lives of many, with people becoming homeless, losing families and facing economic crises. This war is already showing long-standing consequences environmentally and concerning outer space. No field is left which has not been impacted by this war. But let’s take a look at the impact on space missions which are already looking severe. Many countries have imposed sanctions on Russian Federation, and as a result, Russia’s economy and each country’s own economies have been majorly impacted.

Following are some major missions that have been impacted due to this war: 

1)International Space Station:

            Fig: ISS Credits: NASA/ESA

The ISS is a paragon of international collaboration and bringing humanity together as one through space. Russia and the US worked together from the beginning, including Russia supplying the first-ever ISS module! But unfortunately, the ongoing conflict has led to a significant disappointment amongst various space-faring nations and collaborative space agencies, including NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA. Intergovernmental treaties and agreements have established the ownership and use of the space station. Amid the Russia-led invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been facing backlash from its partner countries. But there is still hope that the nations will co-operate in space, especially if the ISS is concerned. 

2) VENERA-D MISSION:

   This is a lander and rover mission planned to Venus through cooperation between ROSCOSMOS and NASA. Here ‘D’ means Dolgozhivushaya or long-lasting in Russian. The main objective of this mission is to study our twin sister in depth using a lander and orbiter respectively. But the ongoing conflict has halted this mission. There may not be a co-operation between ROSCOMSOS and NASA, citing sanctions on the Russian Federation. The officials from Russia may not be willing to continue with the US in the future.

         Credits: ROSCOSMOS/Wikipedia

 

3) European-Russian ExoMars 2022:

 Credits: European Space Agency 

This is a joint venture between Russia’s space agency ROSCOSMOS and European Space Agency. The primary objective of this mission is to search for microbial life signatures and to study Mars at depth. It will collect samples and analyze them using the next-generation instruments in an onboard laboratory. It will be a demonstration for a future Mars sample return mission. As we know, Mars has been of great interest to us and missions like these will make us future space travellers. But the ongoing sanctions on Russia may halt this mission for the foreseeable future.    

4)Stoppage of delivering Rocket Engines to the USA:

   Russia has stopped its services of delivering rocket engines to the USA in response to the sanctions which has been imposed on the latter. “In a situation like this, we can’t supply the United States with our world’s best rocket engines. Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks; I don’t know what,” Rogozin said on Russian state television. Such are the statements being made by the Russian officials.  According to Rogozin, Russia has successfully delivered a total of 122 RD-180 engines since the 1990s, of which 98 have been used for Atlas launch vehicles. Also, Russia has suspended its missions from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana in response to the sanctions imposed on it.

 Ukranian Space Agency: 

    Like other countries, Ukraine has its own space agency which was established in 1992 after the fall of the USSR. The main motive of this space agency is to use space for peaceful purposes. Since its inception, the space agency has launched 125 Launch vehicles and delivered close to 230 spacecrafts into orbit for the benefit of 20 countries worldwide.

All this is going to impact future independent and cooperative Russian space missions as Russia is a crucial player in space exploration.  “It will be a sad loss to many space scientists if those relationships are lost or damaged,” Gaddis (director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Tex).  adds. Thus while the tensions are high one can only hope that space will remain a continued link between countries to come together and work to advance humanity as a whole.

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