NASA chief says agency has withdrawn invitation to head of Russia's Roscosmos

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin take questions at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikanour Kazakhstan on 18 Oct. 2018

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin take questions at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikanour Kazakhstan on 18 Oct. 2018

"After receiving feedback from the Senate, we have rescinded our invitation to Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin", Megan Powers, the press secretary for NASA, told CNN late Friday.

Roscosmos expects official explanations regarding the return visit "in accordance with the earlier received invitation", it said.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he had rescinded an invitation to Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian State Space Corporation Roscosmos, to visit the United States because he wanted to accommodate the interests of senators.

NASA made the announcement on January 4, following critical press reports and calls by USA lawmakers to cancel the visit.

Roscosmos is waiting for official explanations from NASA as to the return visit of a Russian delegation to the U.S., the state corporation said in a statement on Saturday.

"NASA has informed the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, that the proposed visit of Roscosmos Director General, Dr Dmitry Rogozin, now planned for February 2019, will need to be postponed", NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers told Sputnik on Friday.

"On behalf of Roscosmos State Corporation and on my own behalf, I want to congratulate you and the entire team of the China National Space Administration (CNSA) on the successful launch of the Chang'e-4 mission - the first soft landing on the far side of the moon in the history of mankind", Rogozin said in a letter of congratulation published at Roscosmos's website.

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The invitation had set off alarms among hawks in Congress, who noted that sanctions typically bar people from entering the U.S. Rogozin was placed on a sanction list in 2014 in response to Russia's military actions in Ukraine.

Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, has been a leading critic in the Senate against Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and has pressed for the United States to "send a strong message to the Kremlin".

Senator Mark Warner (Democrat-Virginia) said that it "absolutely sends the wrong message to lift sanctions, even temporarily, for the objective of inviting him to speak to students at one of our nation's premier universities".

Powers added, "Russia is a key partner for NASA, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation". NASA now depends on the Russian space programme to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

When the sanctions were issued in response to Russia's invasion of Crimea, Rogozin reportedly said Russian Federation should stop flying NASA's astronauts to the International Space Station. Under those sanctions, he is banned from entering European Union countries.

He became director-general of Roskosmos in May 2018.

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