Colorado astronaut in space talks to 7NEWS; says political tensions with Russia not affecting ISS

DENVER - Political tensions between the United States and Russia are not currently having an impact on astronauts aboard the International Space Station, according to the Colorado astronaut who recently assumed command of the orbiting laboratory.

Earlier this week, a Russian official said cooperation between the two nations wouldn't extend past 2020 because of United States sanctions imposed in Ukraine.

"Right now we have no change up here from the way we do our operations," Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson told 7NEWS Reporter Marc Stewart during an interview via satellite Thursday. "I'm still good friends with my Russian colleagues. The mission controls still work well together. And so as far as we're concerned, it's the same status quo as it's always been for us. There's no difference."

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said Tuesday in tweets and a news conference that American sanctions imposed because of action in Ukraine would boomerang. He tweeted that Russia wouldn't continue cooperating with the United States on the 15-nation International Space Station past 2020, as NASA had hoped.

Rogozin also tweeted that crucial Russian rocket engines would only be shipped to the U.S. for non-military purposes.

NASA currently relies on the Russian Soyuz capsules to fly to and from the station. Swanson is scheduled to return to Earth with his two cosmonaut crewmates in about three months.

"I know there's lot of politics going on, for us there's no difference," he said.

NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said cooperation in space has been a hallmark of U.S.-Russian relations and the agency has not been notified of any changes.

Swanson told 7NEWS that he is loving life 250 miles above the earth.

"You can do the standard flips," said Swanson, describing zero gravity life in his interview with Stewart.

Despite being far from his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Swanson is quickly adjusting to life in Space.

"Do I see Broncos paraphernalia floating in Space?" asked Stewart. "That's possibly there. I don't know how it got there," joked Swanson.

Swanson is now days into his job as Space Station commander.

Yet he's already been in orbit for nearly two months.

"This is the longest you've been in Space. How do you feel? Do you feel OK?" asked Stewart.

"I feel good," he said. "You just become much more comfortable in the environment, much more used to it."

Just weeks ago, Swanson was put to test, completing a spacewalk with short notice -- a far cry from his training underwater.

"This had a little different feel because it wasn't as planned in the sense we practiced it in the pool or talked about it on the ground."

The current focus:  Science and the scenery.

"Unfortunately, you guys seem to be having a lot of cloudy weather, which makes it difficult for me to find Steamboat," he said. "You guys are very lucky to live in Colorado. I think about it all the time. It's just a great place. And so I just can't wait to get back."

Swanson will return to earth in November. Until then, he's not out of touch -- talking with his family online and on the phone.   

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