Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could jeopardize international science

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, which forced at least 1 million people flee their homes, and has already seen thousands of Ukrainian civilians killedcould also have wide-ranging and prolonged ramifications for dozens of industries and organizations, many of which are designed to be apolitical.

Global efforts that could suffer include international scientific collaborations, which primarily focus on pursuing technological and scientific progress. They do this by harnessing knowledge from all corners of the globe: the intention is to create positive change through a collaborative effort and generally operate without political interference.

The unfolding crisis in Ukraine, however, has raised many questions about these partnerships. Should Russia continue to play a role in global projects? Will the sanctions expand to include scientific efforts? And should collaborative international organizations be careful to remain politically agnostic?

Various science projects around the world — and a notable one beyond Earth’s atmosphere — involve Russia, so let’s take a look at how these collaborations reacted to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

ITER

In 2022, the EUROfusion team achieved a first-ever high-confinement sustained plasma inside a tokamak using the same wall materials and fuel mix that ITER will use. (Image credit: UKAEA)

ITER is the largest in the world fusion experience. It involves 35 countries – including Russia, the United States and China – and since its inception has focused on replicating the sun’s fusion processes with the aim of creating clean, nearly limitless energy on Earth.

To date, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has not resulted in any noticeable change in the organization’s work. “To my knowledge, there has been no impact so far,” ITER spokesman Laban Coblentz told Live Science.

ITER was launched as an international project during the Cold War. It has always been collaborative, not because its members are ideologically similar, but “because they share a common goal for a better future,” Coblentz said.

“Throughout ITER’s history, political differences among its members – trade wars, border disputes and other disagreements – have never affected the spirit of collaboration,” Coblentz added. “It’s a peace project.”

However, Coblentz was keen to point out that while the project has not previously been marred by political disputes, “the events of the past few days are unprecedented, so we don’t know what the effect will be. It’s too early to draw conclusions,” he said.

He hopes all ITER members will remain “committed to working together” and can finally focus on their work that could change the world.

The European Space Agency

The European Space Agency (ESA) was quick to condemn Russia following the Ukrainian invasion. In one official statement published on February 28, it highlighted the “tragic consequences of the war in Ukraine” and said that it would give “top priority to making appropriate decisions, not only for the good of our personnel involved in the programs, but in the full respect for our European values.”

Therefore, the ESA said it would “fully implement the sanctions imposed on Russia by our member states.” As such, the agency admitted that the ExoMars program – a collaboration with Roscosmos (the Russian space agency) to search for signs of past life on Mars – will likely be delayed. “The sanctions and the wider context make a launch in 2022 highly unlikely,” ESA said, adding that it will continue to monitor the situation “in close contact with its member states.”

The International Scientific Council

The International Science Council (ISC), a non-governmental organization dedicated to uniting scientific bodies with the aim of advancing science as a ‘global public good’, also issued a swift rebuke to Russia’s incursion. on Ukrainian territory.

A official statement notes the ISC’s “deep dismay and concern over ongoing military offensives” and suggests that “the conflict in Ukraine and its aftermath will hamper the problem-solving power of science when we should be harnessing it”.

However, the ISC statement also confirmed that the council will not cut ties with Russia. “The isolation and exclusion of important scientific communities is detrimental to all,” the ISC said, adding that “working collaboratively on global challenges and on cutting-edge research such as Arctic and space research, n is only equal to our ability to maintain strong collaboration in the midst of geopolitical turmoil.

The ISC is “committed to advancing equal participation and collaboration among scientists from all countries in its activities and the principle of the free and responsible practice of science”.

CERN

The largest atom breaker in the world, the Large Hadron Collider, forms a 27 kilometer long ring under the Franco-Swiss border. (Image credit: Maximilien Brice/CERN)

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, home to the world’s largest atom breaker, the Large Hadron Collider – has not yet issued an official statement regarding the conflict in Ukraine. A CERN spokesperson told Live Science that they are “unfortunately unable to answer questions regarding the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on international science/technology projects”.

international space station

(Image credit: Matthias Kulka/Getty Images)

The International Space Station (ISS) has long been hailed for showcasing cross-border collaboration and cooperation. Five space agencies participate in the in-orbit space laboratory: NASA, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Since its construction began in 1998, the ISS has conducted scientific research and performed a host of valuable and independent experiments for the nation.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has, however, created repercussions.

Taking to Twitter on March 3, Roscosmos said it had joint science experiments canceled which was to be conducted on the ISS in conjunction with Germany – a statement that came just days after Russia signaled it may not continue to help operate the ISS. This could lead to the station being dismantled before its planned end date of 2031.

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The International Space Station (ISS) has long been hailed for showcasing cross-border collaboration and cooperation. Five space agencies participate in the in-orbit space laboratory: NASA, Roscosmos, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Since its construction began in 1998, the ISS has conducted scientific research and performed a host of valuable and independent experiments for the nation.

The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has, however, created repercussions.

Taking to Twitter on March 3, Roscosmos said it had joint science experiments canceled which was to be conducted on the ISS in conjunction with Germany – a statement that came just days after Russia signaled it may not continue to help operate the ISS. This could cause the station have to be decommissioned before its scheduled end date of 2031.

The current crew of seven aboard the ISS is made up of Russians Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, Americans Kayla Barron, Mark T. Vande Hei, Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn, and a lone German, Matthias Maurer.

Speaking on February 28, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate and NASA’s most senior human spaceflight official, said: “We understand the global situation, but as a team joint, these teams operate together.” She added: “We are not getting any indication at the operational level that our counterparts are not engaged in the continued operation of the International Space Station,” she added. according to Space.com.

However, it is clear that, on Earth, there are tensions, and the situation changes daily.

On March 3, Dmitry Rogozin, director general of Roscosmos, said that Russia will stop — for the moment at least — its space cooperation with the United States. He said Russia would no longer deliver rocket engines to the United States, or provide maintenance, and suggested America instead use “brooms” to propel itself through space.

However, Tony Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, a US provider of spacecraft launch services, suggested Russia’s actions may not have a significant immediate impact. “We like to be able to consult them [Russia] in case the engine might do something unexpected,” he said via his Twitter account. “But we have been flying them for years and have developed considerable experience and expertise,” he added.

The uncertainty surrounding Russia’s continued dedication to the ISS project encouraged billionaire Elon Musk to go to twitter to suggest that if Russia stops contributing, its company, SpaceX, will be able to fill the void and keep the ISS operational.

Musk was responding to a series of tweets posted by Rogozin in which the Russian asked “who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit to the United States or Europe”, before adding ominously “the ISS does not fly over not Russia, so all risks are yours.”

Currently, Russian spacecraft anchored to the ISS are being used to alter the station’s trajectory and flight path, which is necessary to ensure it can continue to orbit Earth effectively. If Russia removed this capability, SpaceX’s “Dragon” capsules could, according to Muskperform this function.

SpaceX already has strong ties to the ISS, regularly resupplying the station and delivering astronauts, so this is a potential solution that will likely be evaluated carefully.

Whether Musk’s help will be needed is, for now, still up in the air.

Originally posted on Live Science.

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