War in Ukraine complicating Russia's space partnerships

Three NASA astronauts and one European Space Agency astronaut make up the next generation of space travelers, ready for their six-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA's administrator and former U.S. senator Bill Nelson said they are working even closer with the European agency now, considering the current state of political tensions abroad.

They have been an integral partner," said Nelson. "A lot of people don't realize just how much of an international partnership our civilian space program through NASA is."

The European Space Agency (ESA) director said they are proud of their partnership with NASA, but planning set against the backdrop of war between Russia and Ukraine has made work on the ISS, and other space exploration programs difficult.

ESA is now cutting ties with the Russians, becoming one of NASA's main partners. 

"I have just made decisions to not continue a project we have been working on with Russia for 13, 14 years, called Exomars," explained ESA Director Josef Aschbacher. "It is a rover that was supposed to land on Mars."

A mission, planned for September, is not the only project canceled by the Europeans. The director said they ended collaborations with Russia's space agency Roscosmos, on future missions to the moon.

"Now, of course, we need to replace the activities that have originally been foreseen to be done with Russia, to be done with either our own technology or possibly with NASA, and this is something that I am investigating right now," Aschbacher added.

However, Nelson said NASA is keeping business as usual with the Russians for the time being, a relationship they have had since 1975 in the midst of the Cold War.

"It is Europe that is directly threatened by what the Russians are doing in their invasion of Ukraine, so they wanted to eliminate that altogether," said Nelson. "That is not affecting our space program, and it is not affecting our relationship with the European Space Agency."