STAR CITY, Russia – Russian and American astronauts on Friday downplayed suggestions of disputes on the international space station over access to food and equipment.
U.S. astronaut Michael Fincke, Russian Yuri Lonchakov and American space tourist Charles Simonyi made the comments to reporters two days after returning to Earth.
In a newspaper interview published just days after he blasted off for the station last month, veteran Russian astronaut Gennady Padalka said that squabbles on Earth over access to food, water, toilets and other facilities have hurt crews' morale and hampered cooperation between the Russians and Americans.
Padalka told the newspaper Novaya Gazeta that new rules were put in place after Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts.
On Friday, Fincke, Lonchakov and Simonyi said that if there were disputes, they were only on the ground, not in space — and not among the space travelers.
"Please don't make a mistake. This is the best partnership that human beings have ever had. We're building the best space station that's ever been built. We're going to the stars together," Fincke told reporters at Russia's cosmonaut training center outside of Moscow. "So let's not let these little small things stop us from realizing this partnership we have together."
"It's called an international space station because people from different nationalities work there," Lonchakov added.
"In space there are no politics," he said. "What's decided on Earth is decided on Earth. What we are working in space is completely different, we work things out differently."
This year, the station's permanent crew will be doubled to six and Russia will be conducting an accelerated schedule of Soyuz spacecraft launches in the coming months to add to the staff.