Russia has dramatically hinted at plans to DITCH the International Space Station and build a rival base with the help of China – ushering in the dawn of a new ‘Space Race’.
It’s also considering replacing human cosmonauts in favour of robots.
The $100 billion (£80bn) ISS science and engineering laboratory orbits the earth at 250 miles (400 km) high.
Since 2000 it has been staffed by rotating crews of mostly US astronauts and Russian cosmonauts – although Brit Tim Peake came back down last year and plans another trip up next year.
While the Chinese have never stepped foot on the ISS, space is one area where the Russia and West have been able to work together in relative harmony compared to back on earth in recent years.
The last so-called ‘Space Race’ of the 1950s and 60s was arguably won when American Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the moon.
But it became a costly affair for both the USA and the former Soviet Union in their battle to prove their technological superiority which became symbolic of the Cold War era.
The suggestion that the Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, is thinking of throwing in with the Chinese will send shockwaves through the space exploration community.
Although many scientists in the US want the huge amount that is spent on maintaining it every year – $3 billion (£2.4 bn) – diverted to be spent on a mission to inhabit Mars.
Chief analyst of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin hinted today that China and Russia could join forces to construct a rival station.
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