March 20 - NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins said the tensions between the Washington and Moscow over Ukraine did not interfere with the latest U.S.-Russia joint mission at the International Space Station. Mana Rabiee reports.
The crisis in Ukraine may have ratcheted up tensions between the U.S. and Russia. But from the International Space Station earlier this month, those differences were looking pretty small. NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins spent 166 days on the space station, working closely with his Russian cosmonaut colleagues Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazansky. The three-man crew landed safely in Kazakhstan March 10, well aware of the east-west tensions affecting their countries. On Thursday, Hopkins said diplomatic rows on earth didn't affect the mission in space. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MIKE HOPKINS, AMERICAN ASTRONAUT WHO RECENTLY RETURNED FROM 166 DAYS ON THE ISS SAYING: "I returned to earth with two Russian cosmonauts and again those are my friends, I certainly count them as close friends, and so I enjoyed all my time with them." The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Russian officials over the Kremlin's handling of the political and military crisis in Ukraine. The deteriorating relationship between Washington and Moscow hasn't affected the space station program. Hopkins says he's confident it can withstand the political wrangling. (SOUNDBITE)(English) MIKE HOPKINS, AMERICAN ASTRONAUT WHO RECENTLY RETURNED FROM 166 DAYS ON THE ISS SAYING: "You know, I'm not worried about it at this point. I think the agreements we have in place are very strong. I think there is a lot of value added to the International Space Program for all the partners and so at this point I think that this is a program that will continue well into the future." The U.S. and Russia lead the 15-nation space station program. So cross-border differences on Earth are put into a different perspective when manning missions in space.