The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has suspended all contact with the Russian government as a result of its violation of Ukraine sovereignty and annexation of Crimea last month.
According to an internal agency memo obtained by The Verge, the suspension includes banning Russian officials from visiting NASA facilities, forbidding travel to Russia, dropping participation in video and teleconferences, canceling bilateral meetings and ending all email communication.
The space agency will still participate in meeting held outside of Russia that include Russian officials.
“Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, until further notice, the U.S. Government has determined that all NASA contacts with Russian Government representatives are suspended, unless the activity has been specifically excepted,” the memo said.
“At the present time, only operational International Space Station activities have been excepted.”
Last month, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden indicated that the space agency’s relations with Russia were normal, but took the opportunity last week to write a blog post criticizing Congress for continually under-funding the agency and forcing it to rely more and more on Russia.
Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet in in July 2011, NASA has purchased rides on Russia’s Soyuz space capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station for almost $71 million per seat.
“Later today, NASA astronaut Steve Swanson will liftoff towards the International Space Station, not from the Space Coast of Florida or some other American spaceport, but from Kazakhstan on a Russian spacecraft,” Bolden wrote. “And unfortunately, the plan put forward by the Obama Administration to address this situation has been stymied by some in Congress.”
President Obama has described the reliance on Russia as “unacceptable.”
“NASA’s goals aren’t political,” an anonymous NASA scientist said in the Verge report. “This is one of the first major actions I have heard of from the U.S. government and it is to stop science and technology collaboration… You’re telling me there is nothing better?”