Putin Says Space Exploration With U.S. Will Go On Amid Sanctions

(Bloomberg) -- Russia wants to continue international cooperation in space and won’t break off programs with the U.S. in retaliation for its latest economic sanctions, President Vladimir Putin said.

“We aren’t going to break off anything here or leave these programs,” Putin said Thursday during a visit to a space exhibition center in Moscow to mark Cosmonauts’ Day. “We have the technology and the desire” to take part in projects that Russia has with U.S., European Union and Japanese partners to explore the Moon and Mars, he said.

The U.S. relies on Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, to ferry astronauts and equipment to the International Space Station, paying $2.6 billion for the use of Soyuz rockets since the National Aeronautics and Space Administration retired its fleet of space shuttles in 2011. A NASA report in 2016 said the U.S. would spend $950 million to buy 12 seats for crew members in 2017 and 2018. Private companies including Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Boeing Co. plan to test manned craft later this year that could end the U.S. dependence on Russia by the time the agreement expires in 2019.

Putin said he signed an order in February for development of a new super-heavy lift rocket capable of operating in deep space. Russia will send an unmanned mission to Mars next year as part of a program that also includes plans to explore the Moon, Putin said in a documentary on state television last month.

Russia has agreements with international partners on programs involving a geostationary orbiter and missions to Mars, and wants to continue working on them, Putin told veteran cosmonauts Thursday.

“Thank God, this field of activity isn’t touched by problems in the political sphere,” he said. “This is in the interests of everyone, of the whole of humanity. It’s a sphere of activity that can unite us.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.