January 29, 2023

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Could Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Cause a Space War?

Experts fear that the geopolitical dynamics linked to the Ukraine invasion and the year-long delay could compromise international space exploration projects such as sending the first man to Mars.

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“I do not believe that the astronauts of the International Space Station (ISS) are in danger, but the current political situation makes one think. It will certainly lead partners to reconsider major international programs,” says editor-in-chief Philip Henerejos. Sky and spaceA journal devoted to the science of the universe.

The station currently has three Russians, three Americans and one Japanese. They make 68e The mission of the ISS crew is to better understand weightless life. Although research and maintenance work in space is apolitical, the situation on Earth inevitably has an impact on this limited space.

As the war in Ukraine began, Russia – which had drastically cut its science budget under Vladimir Putin – announced it would withdraw from the International Space Station next year. A year later, it is clear that the situation on the ground between the two countries has not improved.

Major projects compromised?

Astrophysicist Robert Lamontagne fears the international situation could compromise major space exploration projects.

“Manned flight to Mars is a project that seemed possible before the invasion of Ukraine. For such projects to work, it will take a lot of money and common intentions. I don’t know how it will happen if the major countries involved in space exploration do not work together,” he said.

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China, a latecomer to space exploration, is participating in the recapture of the moon, but it is doing so independently without the help of the West. The deployment of the Chinese space station, completed three months ago (see other text), is further proof that it wants to stand alone and, above all, go it alone.

Who does what?

On the ISS, everyone has their own mission. For example, the Russian crew was responsible for keeping the largest spacecraft in history in perfect alignment. If he stops doing this work, the station could enter a “controlled orbit” and fall “to America or Europe,” as Dmitry Rogozin, the former head of Roscosmos, put it. Russian Space Agency.

He underlined this risk after a meeting with President Putin on February 24, 2022.

An uncontrolled fall of the station is a theoretical possibility, but precautions will be taken to avoid it, Mr. Lamontagne maintains. “The people there are professionals. They may discuss the political situation, but avoid conflict. At our family dinners in Quebec, we avoid talking politics during referendum campaigns.

At the Canadian Space Agency, we promise. “International Space Station operations are continuing as usual,” spokeswoman Sarah Berjoy said, adding that the priority was ensuring the safety of the crew.

However, it is hard to ignore the fact that Canada is funding Ukraine with millions of dollars and imposing severe economic sanctions on Russia. Innovation Canada, Science and Technology and Business Canada explain this Register Canada will continue to impose sanctions “against key members of Putin’s inner circle and against entities and individuals who directly or indirectly support Russia’s illegal activities.”

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Canada “continues to monitor the situation and will continue to use sanctions to increase pressure as long as Russia continues its war of aggression in Ukraine,” the spokesperson noted by email.

China won the space race

China has stood out from any other country when it comes to space exploration in recent decades, an expert argues.

“I even predict that the next human to set foot on the moon will be a woman,” said Olivier Hernandez, director of the Montreal Planetarium.

In addition to the race to the moon, China has also stepped up the number of satellite launches in 2021 and 2022. But it worked effectively and by completing 1 at its expenseR November 2022, China Space Station. It took NASA and its partners 22 years to build a platform and just 17 months to complete.

The smaller sister of the International Space Station, which has been permanently occupied since 2000, the Chinese station will receive three tyconauts starting in 2021.

The ISS is a collaboration between some fifteen countries, including Canada, the Chinese space station displays only the flag of the People’s Republic of China.

Despite all this technological prowess, is there any good science in these two space stations? “There are many experiments on the effects of microgravity on the human body that could be useful in extended missions to Mars. But there is more politics in these projects than real scientific advances,” admits Mr. Hernandez.

With a doctorate in physics, he believes research budgets should be aimed at unmanned missions or next-generation telescopes that can tell us more about the universe.

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Russia has said it wants to look more to China for its space programs. But it is not certain that China will be interested in this cooperation, and Russia’s science budget is almost empty due to two main factors: Putin’s apathy for these big projects and the war effort that has drained the national economy.

Astronauts, Astronauts, Tyconauts, Astronauts…

Those training to perform space missions outside of Earth’s gravity go by different names depending on their home country. Astronauts are American, astronauts are Russian (formerly Soviet), cosmonauts are French and tyconauts are Chinese.