The Milky Way with the Andromeda Galaxy visible to the upper right hand side.InternationalIndiaAfricaCOLORADO SPRINGS (Sputnik) – The United States and Russia can get back and improve ties by working together in space, former astronaut Frank Culbertson told Sputnik, adding that communication with the Russians over the past year has been difficult. Culbertson who has completed three space flights and logged over 146 days in space shared that he still has friends in Russia, and has very warm memories of his experience with his Russian colleagues. “I’m on a committee to review the safety of the space station periodically with the Russians and General Tom Stafford. We get to communicate every once in a while which to me is very good,” he said. “It’s been very difficult over the last year. I am hoping that we can improve that somehow in the future because people who work in the space program trust each other, count on each other and like each other. We want to keep space going in both countries and around the world. So I think that will be one way that we can come back together better is by cooperating in space and not losing that.” Culbertson also expressed hope that the cooperation between the two countries on space will continue. “I really wish my friends in Russia well. I have really fond memories of my crew and the people I worked with, like Sergei Krikalev, who’s an amazing leader,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the Russians that are in the space program who have made so many amazing achievements, accomplished so much, and I wish them well and I hope we can continue to work together.” Culbertson believes that today they still do what they did 20 years ago, which is put politics aside and work on flying in space together and keeping each other safe. “We had to count on each other for our lives. So we had to depend on each other. We had to trust each other. We’re still doing that,” he said. Culbertson, who spoke with Sputnik at the Yuri’s Night event held by the Space Foundation in Colorado Springs, also underscored that Russia and the US were managing to keep communications “working” despite various restrictions.
"We have some people going to Russia, the Russians have some people coming to us," Culbertson said. "We're flying each other on each other's spacecraft. Somehow we're making it work."
When asked whether he believes this space cooperation and relationship between the two countries will be saved amid the current tensions, Culbertson stated, “We are trying to.””I think we can as long as we don’t lose sight of what the real goal is,” he pointed out. “It’s to help help humanity continue to explore the solar system and the rest of the universe together.”Russia and the US have continued to cooperate in space despite the sanctions imposed on Moscow in the light of the Ukraine conflict. Earlier in March, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying the Crew-5 mission team, including Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina, successfully splashed down off Florida’s Space Coast after spending 157 days in space. Kikina became the first Russian cosmonaut to board a US Crew Dragon spacecraft as part of the International Space Station’s (ISS) integrated flights agreement signed by Russian space agency Roscosmos and NASA in July 2022.