19:03 GMT17 February 2020
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    COLORADO SPRINGS (Sputnik) - The European Space Agency (ESA) hopes that the Russia -UK tensions over the Skripal case will not affect the agency’s cooperation with Russia, ESA Director-General Jan Woerner told Sputnik.

    "In our case, our relation with Russia is not at all effected so far," Woerner said. "We are doing space activities and therefore, we try to keep out of all these discussions. I hope that space can also in the future bridge earthly crises and therefore I hope that there will be no impact on space."

    In March, former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious near a shopping center in Salisbury, England. The UK government accused Russia for orchestrating the attack on the Skripals with a nerve agent and expelled 23 Russian diplomatic workers. Russia has refuted having any role in the poisoning of the Skripals and pointed out that the UK government evidence provided by London to substantiate its accusations.

    ESA Director-General Jan Woerner also noted that ESA is excited about engaging in more joint projects with Russia despite current political tensions between Moscow and the West.

    "Of course I’m observing that there are some political issues worldwide and it’s very good that with space, we can bridge these earthly problems because we need all these connections," Woerner said. "Therefore, I’m very happy that the interaction with Russia, especially with Roscosmos and also with IKI [Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences] is really going on and we are looking forward to more projects, to more programs in many different fields."

    Woerner said the ESA now has organized astronaut launches together with Russia of which the next one, scheduled on June 6 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, will include German astronaut Alexander Gerst.

    "Then, we’re planning together with our Russian colleagues [to engage in] some activities on the Moon, especially research on the surface of the Moon and conduct some experiments," Woerner said. "So there are a lot of things we are planning and I think it’s very good that we are cooperating."

    Woerner spoke on the sidelines of the annual 34rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The event brings together representatives of the world's space agencies, commercial space businesses as well as military, national security and intelligence organizations to discuss and plan the future of space exploration.

    Woerner also said ESA is hopeful it will sign an agreement with Russia's state space corporation Roscosmos on lunar exploration cooperation as soon as possible.

    "The basic agreement is signed, I don’t know exactly when will be the next step to be signed," Woerner said. "From our side, we are looking forward [to signing] as fast as possible."

    Woerner emphasized that the two sides are ready to go forward as the agreement is "basically finalized so we know what we have to do."

    "We are now looking into all the details of how we can contribute to this lunar resource mission and also what can we do afterwards in future missions, how can we there cooperate also on the surface of the moon because moon is really an interesting body," Woerner said.

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    Tags:
    cooperation, European Space Agency (ESA), Jan Woerner, Europe, Russia
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