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Iran Press TV

Russia demands official explanation for US revoking visit by space agency chief

Iran Press TV

Sat Jan 5, 2019 11:25AM

Russia's space agency has demanded an "official explanation" from its American counterpart NASA after it postponed indefinitely a planned visit to the US by its director, Dmitry Rogozin.

Roscosmos space agency declared in a Saturday statement that "it expects official explanations of NASA's position" and insisted that Rogozin's US trip was planned "in accordance with an invitation received earlier."

Rogozin, a former deputy prime minister who was appointed to his current post by President Vladimir Putin last May, was scheduled to visit the US in February, but NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) announced on Friday that it was delaying his visit indefinitely.

The Russian official has been blacklisted by Washington and remains under US sanctions over his alleged role in what the US says Russian involvement in political crisis in Ukraine.

The rescinded invitation came after NASA's Director Jim Bridenstine visited Russia in October, his first trip there after taking up his current position.

While in Russia, Bridenstine observed the failed launch of a Soyuz rocket carrying two Russian and NASA astronauts who managed to make an emergency landing.

Russia's state news agency Tass cited the NASA chief as saying at the time that the federal agency had arranged for temporarily lifting of US sanctions on Rogozin to allow him to visit Houston.

US press reports cited NASA's Friday statement as saying that it had told Roscosmos that Rogozin's visit would "need to be postponed" and a new date "has not been identified."

The move came after the invitation for Rogozin to visit NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston had prompted objections from American senators.

Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said in a Wednesday statement that NASA's invitation to Rogozin "undercuts our message and undermines the United States' core national security objectives."

Roscosmos further noted a veiled warning that preparations for talks on US cooperation with the International Space Station (ISS) program and deep space exploration are "so far not suspended."

The row came as space exploration remains one of the few areas where Washington and Moscow continue their cooperation despite intensifying political tensions. The US needs Russia to transport astronauts to the ISS.

Meanwhile, Rogozin has reportedly clashed with the US on a number of occasions, suggesting once that American astronauts should use trampolines instead of Russian rockets to reach the ISS after Washington imposed sanctions on Moscow.

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