By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
Pressure between the USA and Russia has been growing stronger for months, ever since Russia began trying to take over the Ukraine. Now, the tension has even begun impacting areas normally outside of politics. According to NASA officials, employees are being told to cut ties with Russian representatives.
The move comes as a shock because the space agency tends to remain politically neutral, but this is not the first time NASA and Russia had to face off. After World War II, the two countries competed for global influence in the Cold War when Russia belonged to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). When they weren’t politically outdoing each other by winning over governments around the world and developing nuclear weaponry, the rivals engaged in a Space Race to see who could send spacecraft and men into the starry skies above.
Russia took the lead when they became the first to send a man into space in 1961, as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin completed an orbit around Earth in his Vostok spacecraft. However, thanks to the mega funding that President John F. Kennedy pumped into NASA, the USA became the first country to land a man on the Moon in 1969 with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin.
In 1991, the USSR split into 15 countries, including Russia and the Ukraine. For years thereafter, America and Russia collaborated with each other in space, never letting government politics stand in the way of scientific progress. One of the most important examples of this strong relationship is how both of nations joined forces in constructing the International Space Station (ISS).
In light of recent events, though, NASA is no longer able to communicate with Russian representatives. This means no more trips to (or visitors from) Russia, no teleconferences, and no emails except for those needed to keep things running smoothly. However, the two nations will still keep a professionally friendly relationship when it comes to the ISS, especially since Russian spacecrafts are currently the main vehicles that taxi American astronauts up to the orbiting station. NASA officials point to this recent drama as further proof that it needs more government funding, so the USA can gain independence from relying on Russian rockets.
Images courtesy of NASA.