NASA: Tensions over Ukraine haven't disrupted U.S./Russia partnership in space

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Despite mounting tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the standoff in Ukraine, NASA officials said today things are "normal" between the two countries' space agencies.

NASA hosted a conference call today to answer questions about its $17.5 billion budget request for next year.

Several reporters however, were more interested in how politics on Earth might affect science in space. They repeatedly questioned NASA Administrator Charles Bolden about the status of the U.S./Russia partnership involving the International Space Station.

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The two countries have collaborated on the International Space Station for over a decade.

Ever since NASA disbanded its shuttle program in 2011, the agency has relied on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to ferry its astronauts to the ISS.

Bolden insisted today that NASA isn't looking for an alternative way to send astronauts to the station.

"We see no reason for contingency planning because our relationship remains normal as it has done in prior years in spite of extreme situations here on the ground,” he said.

Bolden pointed out that NASA and the Russian Federal Space Agency remained friendly in 2008 when Russia and the US tussled over military action in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia.

"I think people lose track of the fact that we have occupied the International Space Station now for 13 consecutive years uninterrupted -- and that has been through multiple international crises," Bolden said.

He did say his agency is monitoring relations between the two countries and will formulate contingency plans if necessary. 

That would put NASA in a tough spot since the agency currently has no other way to fly astronauts into space and its next passenger-carrying rocket won't be ready for launch until 2017.

A crew of astronauts is scheduled to leave the ISS on board a Soyuz spacecraft on March 10th, and another crew is set to fly up to the station later in the month.

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