Despite current U.S.-Russia tensions on earth, in outer space ties between Washington and the Kremlin seem to be watertight.
On Tuesday, the two nations cooperated to bring home the Soyuz TMA-10 spacecraft, carrying U.S. astronaut Mike Hopkins, and fellow astronauts Oleg Kotov, a Soyuz commander and Crimean native, and engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy.
The craft landed in Kazakhstan early in the day after the three astronauts spent five months at the International Space Station, CNN reported. This was Kotov's third mission and 526th day in space. This was Hopkins' and Ryazanskiy's first time in space, NASA said.
Japan's Koichi Wakata, America's Rick Mastracchio and Russia's Mikhail Tyurin stayed behind to finish the orbital laboratory's Expedition 39, CNN said. Before heading home in mid-May, these three will be joined by another team comprised of American Steve Swanson, Russian Alexander Skvortsov and Latvian Oleg Artemyev. According to Nasa, they are currently in Star City in Russia, training ahead of their launch on March 25 from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The two countries' cooperation in outer space has managed to survive despite past diplomatic tensions, such as disagreement over Syria and Edward Snowden, NASA said, and it will continue to thrive.
"We do not expect the current Russia-Ukraine situation to have any impact on our civil space cooperation with Russia, including our partnership on the International Space Station program," CNN cited Allard Beutel, a NASA spokesman, as saying.
He added that it is in the best interests of Russia and U.S. to ensure there is no disruption to "operations that have maintained continuous human presence on orbit for over a decade."
"NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, have maintained a professional, beneficial and collegial working relationship through the various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship and we expect that to continue," he said.
Both nations rely on each other's' expertise and technology in space. An ex-NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander, Leroy Chiao, said, "We need each other to operate the station."
One example is America's use of Russian Soyuz capsules to travel to and from the station, after NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011. According to a deal signed by NASA last year, a seat on the Soyuz capsules costs the U.S. some $71 million a seat.
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