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3 Jan, 2019 16:05

NASA still preparing for visit by sanctioned Roscosmos chief despite ire in Washington

NASA still preparing for visit by sanctioned Roscosmos chief despite ire in Washington

Preparations for a visit of Russia’s space agency head to the US is underway, NASA confirmed. It comes despite outrage from some tough-talking US lawmakers over hosting the Roscosmos boss.

Dmitry Rogozin is set to visit the US in early 2019 and there are no changes to the plan, a NASA spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Politico.

“Planning for a potential visit by the Director-General is still underway,” Megan Powers stated. In 2018, NASA succeeded in lifting a travel ban imposed on Rogozin after the 2014 Crimea crisis.

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The head of Roscosmos is coming to the US upon the invitation of NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who visited Russia in October last year. That aside, “the U.S. / Russian relationship in space dates back to the 1970s,” Powers wrote. “NASA has historically invited the head of the Russian space agency to visit the United States.”

In Houston, Rogozin and Bridenstine are expected to discuss “our ongoing space-related cooperation,” Powers’ statement explained. Rogozin will also speak at Rice University, Bridenstine’s alma mater.

Nevertheless, an array of US politicians has already spewed vitriol over Rogozin’s visit.

“It absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily, for the purpose of inviting him to speak to students at one of our nation’s premier universities,” Sen. Mark Warner, a top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a leader of the committee’s investigation into alleged 2016 Russian election interference, said.

“This is appalling,” said Evelyn Farkas, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia in the Obama administration. “It’s utterly inappropriate given who he is and the fact that he is on our sanctions list.”

Space cooperation was, and still is, one of the few areas where Russia and the US successfully work together. Since the shutdown of the shuttle program in 2011, US astronauts have traveled into orbit solely by Russian Soyuz rockets.

American and Russian ISS crew members alike have said many times that their teamwork aboard the station should become an example for politicians from both countries on Earth.

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Last year, Rogozin said that Roscosmos wants to cooperate with NASA in executing its ambitions lunar base project, which is expected to see Russian cosmonauts landing on the moon in the early 2030s.

Rogozin is not the first sanctioned Russian politician to pay a visit to the US. Intelligence chief Sergey Naryshkin and Aleksandr Bortnikov of the FSB both met with then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo on American soil.

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