Moscow agreed last year to work with US on the NASA-led Deep Space Gateway, a proposed facility in lunar orbit which would serve as a staging post for future missions.
But the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, cast doubt on the plans today and warned Russia could abandon the joint project because it does not want a “second fiddle role”.
He said Russia may instead put forward its own proposals, Moscow-based news agency RIA quoted the agency boss as saying.
He said: “The Russian Federation cannot afford to play the second fiddle role in it.”
His comments come just weeks after Russia confirmed it will stop flying US astronauts to the International Space Station in April next year once a contract promoting bilateral partnership of the project comes to an end.
But just hours after Mr Rogozin warned Russia could quit the Deep Space Gateway project, Roscosmos insisted Russia had no immediate plans to leave.
A spokesman for the space agency was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying: “Russia has not refused to take part in the project of the lunar orbit station with the USA.”
NASA and Roscosmos announced in September last year that they would work together on the Deep Space Gateway concept with the aim of sending astronauts into lunar orbit by the 2020s.
The initial outpost could then be expanded to provide a resupply point for crewed missions to Mars or further exploration of the moon.
Construction on the project is due to begin in 2022 with the first modules of the Deep Space Gateway expected to be completed two years later.
The craft itself would be powered by Nasa’s newly created Solar Electric Propulsion – technology which draws power from the sun to drive the spacecraft.
The joint announcement was a rare moment of bilateral cooperation between Russia and the United States during a period of rising tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated in recent years and took a further hit following Russian attempts to influence in the 2016 US presidential election.
President Donald Trump has attempted to improve cooperation with Moscow by engaging with Vladimir Putin.
The US leader has insisted that working with rather than against Russia would be in America’s best interests.
But despite initial hopes of a thawing in relations, Mr Trump’s administration has reimposed sanctions against Russia in response to the Salisbury chemical attack.
Source : EXPRESS