NASA Astronaut Expects U.S./Russia Partnership to Survive

May 19, 2014

A NASA astronaut who was Saturday's commencement speaker at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign says he's optimistic political differences between the U-S and Russia won't affect the International Space Station.

Mike Hopkins
Credit WILL

Mike Hopkins returned to Earth earlier this year after six months aboard the International Space Station.
Russian officials recently said the country plans to quit the Space Station partnership after 2020, a move that could kill the program.

Hopkins says 2020 is a long way off, and in the meantime, he says, the countries' space agencies continue to work together as usual.
"Obviously there's some political tension between the two countries at the moment, but fortunately at the level of the space program, we're still working together very well.  I think that will continue. So, we'll see what'll happen beyond 2020."
NASA retired the space shuttle fleet in 2011, and has relied on Russia to send Americans, like Hopkins, to the space station.

Hopkins says he wants to return to space, and plans to work to help NASA again send astronauts to orbit from American soil within the next few years.