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16 Feb, 2021 16:20

The skies have their limits! Russian space scientists left out of missions to Jupiter moons for political reasons, expert claims

The skies have their limits! Russian space scientists left out of missions to Jupiter moons for political reasons, expert claims

Moscow may have made history in 1961 when the first manned spaceflight orbited the earth, but Russian prospects of future missions to far-away planets are looking more limited because of political tensions, one expert claims.

Oleg Korablev, the deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Space Research Institute, told local media on Tuesday that the country had been effectively unable to participate in joint projects to explore the moons of Jupiter.

The US is not interested in a partnership as part of its efforts to send a probe to the gas giant’s rocky orbiting moon, Europa, according to Korablev. “The Americans do everything themselves [now],” he said, adding that their Europa Clipper spacecraft “uses armored microcircuits, which are only made in the US. There is no talk of any co-operation around this.”

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Russian scientists were also reportedly blocked from participating in the European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer (JUICE) program. “The circumstances were unfortunate,” Korablev said. “At one point, we had planned the development of a pair of devices jointly with [other] European nations,” but these plans were later shelved.

China, which is also racing to scout out that part of the cosmos, has also reportedly been uninterested in working with Moscow to launch a probe. “Theirs is a tough system,” Korablev claimed. “They always make the first expeditions on their own, and then open the second or third expedition for international participation.”

Jupiter’s moons have sparked interest from countries across the world because at least three of them, Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa, are thought to have significant bodies of water beneath their surface, making them potential incubators for life. At the same time, the presence of non-frozen water could make them handy bases for off-world manned bases in the future.

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In September, Roscosmos (the Russian Space Agency) announced that it would send a mission to the fiery planet Venus, in addition to a joint exploration initiative with the US. “We believe that Venus is a Russian planet, so we shouldn’t fall behind,” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, said at the time. Scientists at the UK’s Cardiff University had previously published a paper hypothesizing that Venus’ clouds could be inhabited by living organisms.

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