In space, there are no borders. The International Space Station, by its very name, is a collaborative effort between Russia, the U.S., the European Union, Japan and Canada. At the moment, it has a crew of three Russians, two Americans and a German. And attached to the outside of the orbiting laboratory, there are currently five spacecraft: three Russian, one American and one European.
And, of course, Canada’s own Chris Hadfield recently commanded the station. The whole complex has been a mini United Nations of space since its inception.
The spirit of cooperation?
Everyone who travels to space looks down on Earth and sees it as a single planet with no artificial lines drawn across it to define ownership. That borderless view is one of the most important messages to come from space exploration; we are all one species, living on a shared planet.
Too bad the same perspective doesn’t apply on the ground. Earthbound politics are interfering with international partners who simply want to gather to discuss future plans.
The Canadian government's refusal to grant visas is most likely a reaction to Russia’s activity in Crimea and human rights issues in China. Sadly, the space program has nothing to do with either of those issues, but space exploration is a highly visible pawn that can be used to make a political statement.
In 1991, during his second flight aboard the former Russian Space Station Mir, the Soviet Union collapsed. After three months in space, there was no money to bring Krikalev down. He stayed up there for another three months, which he described as the equivalent to running a marathon, reaching the finishing line, then being told to turn around and run it again.
He has the distinction of being the only person to have left Earth as a Soviet citizen and returned a Russian.
During his time in space, Krikalev circled the Earth more than 12,000 times. Now, he can’t get from Russia to Canada because of politics.
We should let them get on with their work and keep the politics out of it.