Mar 29, 2015 02:37 PM EDT
While the United States and Russia relations may be at their lowest point in decades, the space agencies are working together better than they ever have before. NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos today announced plans to continue working together with the International Space Station until new endeavors begin when the ISS is retired in 2024.
"We are pleased Roscomos wants to continue full use of the International Space Station through 2024 -- a priority of ours -- and expressed interest in continuing international cooperation for human space exploration beyond that" NASA spokesperson, David Weaver says. "The United States is planning to lead a human mission to Mars in the 2030s, and we have advanced that effort farther than at any point in NASA's history."
"We welcome international support for this ambitious undertaking. Today we remain focused on full use of our current science laboratory in orbit and research from the exciting one-year mission astronaut Scott Kelly just began, which will help prepare us for longer duration spaceflight."
This latest announcement marks a change of heart for the Russians as just last year Russia's Deputy Prime Minister said that the Russians would pull out of the station in 2020 and just last month Roscosmos said it had plans of creating a new Russian space station.
News of the agreement followed the successful launch of the manned Soyuz spacecraft, which arrived at the ISS on Saturday.
Russian Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly will spend a full year on the station while the Russian astronaut Gennady Padalka will return to the surface in six months.
This is the first attempt at a year long mission by NASA, which is twice the length of any standard stay on the International Space Station. Four Russians have spend a year or longer in space aboard the Soviet Union's Mir Space Station.
The purpose of this latest long term mission is to analyze the physical impacts of prolonged weightlessness on the body so scientists can begin to assess how astronauts will handle the long trip to the Red Planet.
At the press conference, Bolden also addressed criticism that NASA is no longer funding many low-orbit missions, saying the agency is resolved to commercializing space travel.
He said there are plans "to attract more private developers to our joint exploration projects of the moon and Mars".
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