Well, it’s official: Russia will be withdrawing from the International Space Station. Yuri Borisov, the new head of Russia’s space agency, announced the country will cease collaboration aboard the International Space Station “after 2024” and focus on building its own station.

The day-to-day function of the station is unlikely to be disrupted immediately. But with six of the space station’s 17 modules belonging to Russia – including the module responsible for maneuvering and maintaining altitude – this decision throws a big wrench into plans to extend the station’s operation past the agreed-upon end date of 2024.

As NASA and other space agencies scramble to understand what this announcement means and how it will affect the floating lab, Wendy Whitman Cobb, a professor of space policy, explains that the Russian withdrawal marks “the culmination of months of political tensions involving the ISS. The question now is whether the political relationship has gotten so bad that working together in space becomes impossible.”

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Daniel Merino

Assistant Science Editor & Co-Host of The Conversation Weekly Podcast

Russia controls six modules aboard the International Space Station. STS-122 Shuttle Crew, NASA via flickr

Russia’s withdrawal from the International Space Station could mean the early demise of the orbital lab – and sever another Russian link with the West

Wendy Whitman Cobb, Air University

The head of the Russian space agency announced that the country will withdraw from the International Space Station after 2024. A space policy expert explains what this means and why it’s happening now.

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