Radio Sputnik has discussed the prospects for Russia-US space cooperation with Dr. Alice Gorman, an internationally recognized leader in the field of space archaeology and Senior Lecturer at Flinders University.
Sputnik: In an emotional address, the NASA chief said he wanted the cooperation between NASA and Roscosmos to remain strong. What do you make of the desire for space cooperation at a time when Russia-US relations are otherwise strained?
Alice Gorman: It really is an interesting time at the moment. There's obviously a political background to do with allegations of Russian interference in US elections and all of this kind of thing. So in one way, it's really hopeful that Jim Bridenstine, the head of NASA, is very clear that the collaboration and cooperation between Roscosmos and NASA is at the heart of the space program.
Sputnik: How important is it to the US side to maintain the Space Station, especially that it hasn't been unmanned for 18 years now. It would be quite a change from the status quo if all of a sudden there were no longer astronauts, international personnel and crews at the station.
There's no one to monitor systems personally up there and there's no one to fix things if something goes wrong. If it is going to be unoccupied we would hope that's a very short duration because it's just not designed to be empty. The other impact of this, I think, is psychological. Probably, most people don't think about this all the time, but for the last 18 years, there have been humans orbiting above our heads for the entire time.
I think if that space station is empty, it's going to feel quite different; space will be empty of human life and we've just become kind of used to that. I think there's a lot of strong motivation for trying to get this program back up to normal running as soon as we possibly can.
Sputnik: Some are actually saying that there's a chance that we could see a souring of relations between the US and Russia as far as joint efforts in space; we have Donald Trump who's actually taken quite an interest in space and launched this separate space agency to be more competitive. Do you think that there's enough background and enough interest to maintain the relationship between the US and Russia for the benefit of keeping the ISS operational and crewed?
All the US and the European space agency astronauts that go into the ISS end up training in Russia; they learn the Russian language, they have a very intense program where they become part — and Bridenstine emphasized this continually — of a family. Sure, using the metaphor of a family is quite a good spin to use in the current situation, but is also very true. I think that deep relationships are much more resilient than some of these political blips that we're seeing right now.
My feeling is that the other stuff that's going on isn't going to get in the way.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alice Gorman and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.