The gossip among spaceheads on sites like The Verge and NasaWatch (which is not an official NASA site) is that NASA has suspended all “contacts with Russian Government representatives…unless the activity has been specifically excepted,” in the phrasing of a supposedly leaked memo. The biggest of those exceptions would be anything related to the operation of the International Space Station, in which both countries have skin—literally—in the form of astronauts.
The alleged memo is unusually frank in its phrasing, blaming the chill on “Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” Fox News, Huffington Post, CBS News and others are confirming the report, but AP has said nothing and NASA is so far mum.
A NASA representative at the Johnson Space Center emailing with TIME had no knowledge of the supposed memo and seemed amused by it, given that agency officials met with their Russian counterparts just this morning. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has been making the point that Russia’s unreliability makes it all the more imperative for NASA funding to get a bump so the U.S. can free itself of the need to hitch rides aboard Soyuz spacecraft—at $70 million per seat—just to reach the Space Station.
It’s unlike NASA to play cute with leaks, letting this memo slip, say, just to put some heat on Congress for more money and on Moscow for better behavior. Russia does like those steep air fares we pay them and doesn’t need to be reminded of that. The memo—if it exists—may be the result of someone inside NASA overstepping, but a formal statement is still pending as of late Monday afternoon.
Update 8:10 p.m. ET: NASA indeed suspended some activities with Russian officials. NASA’s full statement: