Russia Says Lunar Gateway ‘Too U.S.-Centric’

Lunar Gateway/Orion concept
Credit: NASA

The head of Russia’s space agency is raising questions about the oversight and leadership of NASA’s planned lunar-orbiting Gateway, saying more collective decision-making, for example, is needed before Russia considers joining the U.S. effort. 

“In our view, the lunar Gateway in its current form is too U.S.-centric,” Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said through an interpreter on Oct. 12 during the opening panel session of the 71st International Astronautical Congress (IAC), which is being held virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Russia is likely to refrain from participating in it on a large scale,” Rogozin said. 

“The most important thing,” he added during a follow-on press conference, “would be to base this program on the principles of international cooperation which were used in order to fly the ISS [International Space Station] program,” such as collective decision-making among the partners.

“If we could get back to considering making these principles as the foundation of the program, then Roscosmos could also consider its participation,” Rogozin said. 

In a statement, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted that the Gateway partnership is indeed an extension of the intergovernmental agreement that underpins the ISS, which on Nov. 2 marks 20 years of habitation by rotating crews of astronauts and cosmonauts. The ISS is a partnership of 15 nations, led by the U.S. and Russia. 

“We believe in continuing the multilateral approach that has been successfully established by the ISS,” Bridenstine said.

“The ISS has not only advanced technology, but also helped us to learn how to effectively work together with a variety of cultures and countries. This is why we’re using the Intergovernmental Agreement (the IGA), which is the ISS’s legal framework, for Gateway,” he said.

“In order to build as broad a coalition as possible, we shared a draft of the proposed Gateway Memorandum of Understanding with Roscosmos in November [2019], and we remain open and interested in receiving their feedback on the document and our general approach of utilizing the ISS’s IGA for the Gateway,” Bridenstine noted. 

The NASA-led Gateway is part of the Artemis initiative to extend and sustain human presence beyond low Earth orbit.

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.