Yuri Borisov, the new head of Russia’s space corporation Roscosmos, made a big deal out of telling none other than president Vladimir Putin earlier this week that the nation was officially abandoning the International Space Station “after 2024.”
The rather vague statement was met with a lot of confusion, with everybody asking the same question: when, exactly? Besides, Russia it turned out that Russia had yet to actually inform its international partners of any such plans.
One person took the news in stride, though.
“Bon voyage,” tweeted SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in response to the news.
Musk has personally butted heads with Russia’s space leadership for years now. In fact, according to a new book by former NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver, Musk started his rocket venture after a Russian engineer spat on his shoes.
“This act so completely offended Elon that he decided on the flight home that he would start his own rocket company to compete with them,” Garver wrote in her book, as quoted by Insider.
Russia’s actions, particularly following the invasion of Ukraine, have opened up a rift between its own space program and the international community. And that’s not exactly ideal, given the fact that NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts have been close collaborators on board the ISS for over two decades.
In spite of the bluster, though, the reality is that Roscosmos probably won’t be abandoning its posts any time soon. As Reuters reported on Wednesday, Russia’s space agency will likely keep its cosmonauts on board the ISS until the country has finished constructing its own space station — which could potentially take ages.
“We’re not getting any indication at any working level that anything’s changed,” NASA’s space operations chief Kathy Lueders told Reuters.
That means Musk’s space company may have to deal with Russia’s involvement until at least 2028, if Vladimir Solovyov, the flight director for the space station’s Russian segment, is to be believed.
The news comes roughly a month ahead of a scheduled seat swap between Roscosmos and NASA. Cosmonaut Anna Kikina is still scheduled to fly to the ISS on board a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft at the end of September.
While NASA still has to figure out how to take over propulsion and attitude control of the aging outpost — something that Russia has historically taken care of — Russia’s plans to leave the station won’t leave America completely helpless.
And that’s in large part due to the efforts of Musk’s space venture SpaceX — so it’s not exactly surprising he’s glad to see them leave.
READ MORE: Russia tells NASA space station pullout less imminent than indicated earlier [Reuters]