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NASA Playing Politics, Cuts Ties with Russia – Quite Unscientific

With everything that’s going on in the world today, it’s become exceedingly difficult to really grasp the truth behind many issues.  Take, for example, the ongoing and apparently dangerous issues happening in Ukraine right now.  The country has essentially been invaded by Russia in a display of military might that hasn’t been seen on this planet in many years.  In spite of, or perhaps because of that military might, not a single shot has yet been fired in that effort, even though the people of the Ukraine have witnessed much violence in recent months.

The news outlets in the west are, of course, fulfilling their role as disseminators of disinformation and questionable theory, mixed in with ample pop-culture distraction.  It’s become so very difficult to judge what’s really happening.  And governmental posturing, or as it’s often called, sabre rattling, gives us even more cause for confusion, it not concern.  Up until now though, their various political sanctions and talking points have had little impact on us as a people (whatever country you’re in).  Recalling diplomats from foreign offices, imposing travel restrictions and even economic incentives to avoid certain trade channels amounts to little more than a nuisance to most people, if they have any effect at all on the population as a whole.


However…one so-called political sanction has been carried out that serves to be a set-back to all humanity.  That might be a smidge overstated, but bear with me.

An internal memo from NASA leadership was leaked yesterday, that memo went out to all of their internal department heads and officials, and it outlined NASA’s withdrawal from any and all scientific or logistic endeavours with the Russian Space Agency or Russian contractors.

Of course, that doesn’t include joint efforts related to the International Space Station, nor does it relate to any projects based anywhere else in the world that might include the Russians.  You’re probably aware that NASA, in conjunction with several other space agencies from other nations, is in the habit of catching rides into near-Earth orbit, to visit, resupply, and support the ISS, aboard the vessels of the very people they are now overtly attempting to alienate.  Russia happens to be the only nation currently able to facilitate such logistical efforts, which became even more essential with the decommissioning of the entire Space Shuttle program.

So, what do we have here?

This appears to be NASA’s very first political statement (even if it is only through action) on any subject.  It’s a statement that says: ‘we – whoever we is actually supposed to be – do not agree with the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory; we do not recognise the rights of the Russian government, however they might apply to their claim to or responsibility to assist Russian citizens living in Crimea or elsewhere.  We do not agree with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions or policies and we impose these sanctions by proxy for the will of the people we represent.


Whether we, or you, agree with what’s happening in Ukraine is secondary to this issue (perhaps even tertiary, in some ways).  Don’t fall for the political sleight of hand taking place here, please don’t fall for it.  In any event, please realise that it’s ultimately an impotent attempt to express misguided political manipulation.

NASA is not a political agency.

NASA is not even remotely involved in the electorate process.

NASA is not and has never been authorised to speak for the American people, nor the people of any other country.

Here’s the simple truth of it; NASA is a scientific entity, a research entity, a mechanism and vehicle for the exploration of our world, our planet, and the cosmos.  That effort, though undertaken in the name of the United States of America, is supposed to be for the benefit of everyone on the planet.  Not just for those who comply with the American government’s political ideals.


Science and politics are unfortunately intertwined through the complex maze of funding and public outreach, but scientific institutions must remain politically neutral in order to remain effective.  That doesn’t mean they should be free from morals or ethics, but those ethics must be fed by a responsibility to humanity, and to the planet, and deliberately, expressly…must not be beholden to any one nation.  And certainly not to any one political party.

You may have an opinion on what’s happening in the region of Ukraine, and that opinion may be based on impartial, well researched sources of information, or it might be the product of headlines you’ve seen on social media feeds, but whatever you believe is happening, or should be happening on these issues, it is not and should never be related to the pursuit of scientific truth, and the purveyors of that truth should not be given to flights of political fancy.

I foresee the point of this post being missed, whether willfully or not, but in your inevitable commentary, I ask only that you retain your maturity.

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  • “This appears to be NASA’s very first political statement (even if it is only through action) on any subject.”

    I think many people would debate you on that, Martin. What was the space race of the 1960’s & Kennedy’s call to put a man on the Moon, but a gimmick to show American superiority over ‘the Red Menace’?

    What I feel reprehensible is Nasa’s double standard. You want to make a political stance toward Russia? Fine, then stop asking them for a ride to the ISS!

    This whole thing reminded me a bit of the movie 2010:The Year We Make Contact, which is a (somewhat loose) adaptation to Clarke’s 2001 sequel. The movie decided to have more emphasis on the tight political relationships between the Americans & the Soviets, to the point that when WWIII is about to break on Earth, their respective governments order the astronauts orbiting Jupiter –as part of a joined mission to study the Big Brother monolith– to follow their same stupid example, thus extending Man’s petty quarrels to the other end of the solar system.

  • I disagree, but you knew I would. As much as there was a political element to the space race, NASA was the tool, they were the race car, not the driver. JFK was behind the wheel on that one, and ultimately the space race was a huge success in terms of technological development and economic growth, for the US and its allies, and for the “Red Menace”.

    This move seems to be coming directly from NASA administration as a message independent of the White House. And aside from the potential benefit that SpaceX might enjoy, this is poised to cripple space science around the world, especially if Putin decides to retaliate in kind.

  • I see what you mean, but currently we don’t know whether this decision came directly from Nasa or was a response to a White House mandate. I guess we’ll have to wait & see, although I doubt someone in the space agency would risk becoming the next Snowden.

  • You’re absolutely right, the memo basically blames the decision on the State Department, though no such statement has been made by the State Department that would include NASA. Time will tell…

  • pateriot

    Didn’t NASA just recently state that the inequitable distribution of wealth was the number one threat to mankind? It would appear that the primary beef that this administration has with Russia is that it is no longer Communist!!!
    As for NASA, it has simply become another agency for Dear Leader and the National Socialist Workers Party… I wonder if they have ordered their Billion or so rounds of ammunition needed for space exploration yet!!

  • Bear1000

    I agree that we shouldn’t let political differences stop the pursuit of knowledge. However let me just say what in the world were we thinking when we dismantled our shuttle program? Did we really believe that Russia’s rivalry with us was over? Typical government incompetence!

  • That (overhyped) study was neither made nor requested by NASA:

  • Ghosthunterjones

    I am sorry, but involving the Russians in the construction of the
    International Space Station was politically based in the first place.
    When talks first began about building the space station, no one in NASA
    wanted to involve the Russians. In fact, most of NASA’s officials and
    the majority of the other countries involved argued violently against
    it. The Russian space program had degraded at that time to such a point
    that they were not even paying their rocket engineers. The Russian
    scientists once stole half the food from a MIR resupply because they had
    not been payed in months. To avoid having those men and women from
    taking jobs with questionable countries in building rockets for
    burgeoning nuclear programs, the US government forced NASA to contract
    the Russians for the space station build against its, and most other
    countries involved, wishes. Every successive redesign of the space station
    where it got smaller and smaller than originally planned was because we
    were pouring money down a hole that was using outdated technology and
    recommissioned spare parts to build a space station that was half the
    size and cost triple the money it was supposed to in the first place.
    Now their space program has outstripped our own using money that could
    have been far more effective spent elsewhere because the US government
    chose to involve the Russians in building the ISS, solely for political reasons. That was when NASA first became a tool for US politics. For it to be so now is
    just keeping with tradition.