Russia's space chief has cast doubt on cooperation with the United States to build a joint space station orbiting the moon, though the agency he leads scrambled to clarify that Moscow has not abandoned the plan.
Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying on September 22 that Moscow "can’t allow itself to play second fiddle" to the United States in the planned construction of the moon-orbiting Deep-Space Gateway.
"We will build our own transport system," Rogozin added while speaking to young space engineers, according to Russian news agencies.
Hours later, however, a spokesman for Roskosmos said that Russia is still in the project.
"Russia has not abandoned the project to build a lunar orbital station jointly with the United States," Vladimir Ustimenko was quoted by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency as saying. "That's not true."
The U.S. space agency NASA and Roskosmos last year announced the new collaboration on the space station, which would serve as a staging post for future space missions.
The announcement was a rare glimpse of bilateral cooperation amid bitter tensions in the wake of Russian interference in Ukraine and what Washington calls an extensive effort by Moscow to meddle in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.