MOSCOW – Squabbles on Earth over how cosmonauts and astronauts divide up the space station's food, water, toilets and other facilities are hurting the crew's morale and complicating work in space, a veteran Russian cosmonaut said, according to an interview published Monday.
Gennady Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper as saying space officials from Russia, the United States and other countries require cosmonauts and astronauts to eat their own food and follow stringent rules on access to other facilities, like toilets.
"What is going on has an adverse effect on our work," Padalka, 50, was quoted as saying in an interview conducted before he and his crew mates blasted off to the station last Thursday.
They arrived safely at the outpost Saturday.
Russian space agency spokesman Alexander Vorobyov said he would not comment until he had read the interview.
Padalka, who will be the station's next commander, said the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts. Other partners in space station responded in kind.
"Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide," said Padalka, a veteran of two space missions, according to the newspaper. "We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship. It's politicians and bureaucrats who can't reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts."
He said he had inquired before the current mission whether he could use an American gym machine to stay fit.
"They told me: 'Yes, you can.' Then they said no," he was quoted as saying. "Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative."
While sharing food in the past helped the crew feel like a team, the new rules oblige Russian cosmonauts and U.S. and other astronauts to eat their own food, Padalka said, according to the report.
"They also recommend us to only use national toilets," he was quoted as saying.
Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft were the only link to the space station when the U.S. space shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded following the 2003 Columbia disaster.
They have continued to ferry crews and supplies to the station, and a Soyuz capsule is permanently docked at the station to serve as a lifeboat.
Padalka was also quoted as criticizing the Russian portion of the station, saying it looks backward compared to other sections.
"It's built on technologies dating back to the mid-1980s, at the very latest," he said. according to the report. "We are lagging seven to 30 years back in various space technologies."
Russia's space program fell on hard times after the Soviet collapse and struggled to stay afloat by selling seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to well-heeled space tourists.
During the oil-fueled economic boom its budget increased, but it is again heading for tough times as Russia tries to weather its worst financial crisis since 1998.