June 22, 2022

Some social media users worry that the United States’ support for Ukraine in its war with Russia could backfire. This tweet claims that Russia said it might allow the International Space Station to fall out of the sky if America continues to support Ukraine. This tweet claims that the head of Roscosmos, Russia’s version of NASA, suggested that the International Space Station will fall onto the U.S., Europe, India and China if the U.S. continues to back Ukraine. 

Is there any truth to these claims? And should we be freaking out right now? Here’s how we fact-checked it.

First, a little background. It’s no secret that Russia and the U.S. have butted heads politically over the years. But, in space, things have stayed pretty civil. According to this article from Axios, the space station is one of the rare areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. According to NASA’s page on International Cooperation, the International Space Station was first launched in 1998 and involved the U.S., Russia, Canada, Japan and some other countries from the European Space Agency.

Try a keyword search

This tweet says that this news came directly from the head of Roscosmos, so let’s turn to a keyword search to see if this threat was even made. Searching the keywords “head of roscosmos says ISS could fall out of sky because of sanctions” brought up this Newsweek article.

According to Newsweek, yes, the head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, did warn in a thread on Twitter that the station could fall out of orbit. 

According to the article, Rogozin tweeted on Feb. 24, “If you block cooperation with us, who will save the ISS from an uncontrolled deorbit and fall into the United States or Europe? There is also the option of dropping a 500-ton structure to India and China. Do you want to threaten them with such a prospect?” 

It’s true that the head of Roscosmos warned that the ISS could fall out of the sky over U.S. sanctions on Russia, so at least we know where this claim originated. But is there any truth to Rogozin’s claim?

Check multiple sources

According to this article from Time, this isn’t the first time Rogozin has tweeted some seriously wild threats. Back in 2014, he even wrote that the U.S. should bring their astronauts to the International Space station using a trampoline. 

After Rogozin mused that the U.S. would have to use broomsticks to fly to space, former space station commander Terry Virts told Time, “I was not surprised, based on his previous behavior. This is what I’ve come to expect. On one hand, I responded with an eye roll, on the other hand, I thought, ‘He just really damaged the space station partnership.’”

And what’s NASA’s response to all of this? They’re basically like, meh.

According to The Associated Press, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “That’s just Dmitry Rogozin. He spouts off every now and then. But at the end of the day, he’s worked with us. The other people that work in the Russian civilian space program, they’re professional.”

According to this article from The Verge, while it’s true that the ISS needs Russia to help keep the station in orbit, the station would not fall out of the sky immediately if Russia walks away from the table.

Rating

Mostly Not Legit. While the director of Roscosmos did threaten that the International Space Station could come crashing down to Earth in a Twitter thread, experts agree that this is highly, highly unlikely. Further, even if Russia did leave the ISS, that wouldn’t cause the station to deorbit instantly. 

RELATED: How to research hot-button issues

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Donate

More News

Back to News

Comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.