Space agencies extend support for ISS extension; Russia to remain part of ISS: NASA Administrator

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, while expressing optimism about continued cooperation with Russia, doubted that the cooperation will be extended to China. He warned saying that unfortunately, "we are in a space race with China."

Created On: Aug 26, 2021 16:37 IST
Space agencies extend support for ISS extension
Space agencies extend support for ISS extension

Russia will remain a part of the International Space Station through the end of the decade, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson while speaking on a panel at the 36th Space Symposium with the heads of seven other space agencies on August 25, 2021. 

The NASA Administrator said that the "cooperation with the Russians, which has been there ever since 1975, will continue" despite media reports claiming that its space agency, Roscosmos might end its participation on the ISS as soon as the middle of the decade to develop its own station.

He said that the evidence of this is the docking of a new Russian module, called Nauka, with the International Space Station last month. 

The NASA Administrator has since long called for an extension of the ISS's term to 2030. The US Congress is yet to though formally authorize such an extension and any extension of the ISS would also require the agreement of the other station partners including Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan. 

Other Space agencies support ISS extension

Director-General of the European Space Agency, Josef Aschbacher said in an interview on August 23, 2021 that he backed ISS extension. He said that personally, he would strongly support it but added that it would require support from ESA’s member states. 

He said that he would be happy to present a proposal for extending the use of ISS at the next ESA ministerial meeting in late 2022.

Walther Pelzer, head of the German space agency said that ISS from their point of view is tremendous infrastructure and Germany will support its extension as long as possible. Germany is one of ESA’s largest member states. However, formal German support for ISS extension is likely to come to the German elections in late September.

NASA warns of emerging space race with China

•NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, while expressing optimism about continued cooperation with Russia, doubted that the cooperation will be extended to China. He warned saying that unfortunately, "we are in a space race with China."

•The NASA Administrator did offer a prospect for cooperation, but under terms that are unlikely to be accepted by China. 

•He said that he would like for China to be a partner, drawing an analogy to space cooperation between the US and former the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

•However, he added saying that "China is very secretive,” and "part of the civilian space program is that you’ve got to be transparent.”

•The ESA has reportedly received an invitation from China and Russia to cooperate on their international lunar research station project, which was announced earlier this year. 

•The ESA Director General said that a discussion about potential cooperation is ongoing among ESA members. He though emphasised that the ESA has a strong and excellent partnership with NASA. 

International Space Station

The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular space station in low Earth orbit, which is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies: NASA (US), Roscosmos (Russia), ESA (Europe), CSA (Canada) and JAXA (Japan).

The ISS has been continuously occupied for 20 years and 297 days, which is the longest continuous human presence in low Earth orbit, having surpassed the previous record held by Mir space station of 9 years and 357 days.

In December 2018, ISS's operation authorization was extended till 2030 with funding secured until 2025. Russian space agency, Roscosmos, had announced in February 2015 that it would remain a part of the ISS till 2024.


There have been calls to privatize ISS operations to pursue future Moon and Mars missions. Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine had stated that "given our current budget constraints if we want to go to the moon and we want to go to Mars, we need to commercialize low Earth orbit and go on to the next step."

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