Josef Aschbacher, director general of the European Space Agency, also chimed in, tweeting: “It is unacceptable that the ISS becomes a platform to play out the political or humanitarian crises happening on the ground.” To which he added: “The purpose of the ISS is to conduct research & prepare us for deeper exploration. It must remain a symbol of peace and inspiration.”


In February, U.S. President Joe Biden declared that the international sanctions imposed against Russia would also impact its space program, stating that sanctions would “degrade their aerospace industry.” That same month, the European Space Agency also released a statement condemning the war in Ukraine, while ending its cooperation with Russia on three lunar missions. Meanwhile, NASA seemed keen to keep things diplomatic with its Russian counterpart. “NASA continues working with all our international partners, including the State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the ongoing safe operations of the International Space Station,” a NASA spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email in May.

Even prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the nature of the partnership between NASA and Roscosmos had already shifted. NASA is no longer reliant on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to fly its astronauts to the ISS. Instead, the space agency has partnered with private space companies SpaceX and Boeing, the former of which is now providing regular transportation services to the orbital outpost. Prior to that, and as a result of the retirement of the Space Shuttle program, Russia held a monopoly over crewed transportation to the space station; Roscosmos hiked up the price of a seat on Soyuz from $21.8 million in 2008 to $81 million by 2018.


But still, both parties are needed to maintain the space station, even if NASA astronauts can now get there without the help of Russia, which probably explains NASA’s diplomatic approach. Russia’s ISS deal with NASA and its international partners ends in 2024, and Russia has not signed on for a renewal just yet. The ISS itself is set to retire in 2030, at which time it will plunge into a remote part of the Pacific Ocean as it bids farewell to space. Until then, NASA and Roscosmos will likely be forced to work together in space, even as tensions between the two space agencies mounts on Earth.

More: Taking Out the Trash on the International Space Station Just Got a Lot Easier.