US and Russia Still Friends in Space

Despite Ukraine tensions, space station relations are good.

HOUSTON, March 5, 2014— -- The crew orbiting Earth on the International Space Station is just as chummy as ever despite the tension between the U.S. and Russia over the situation in Ukraine.

The international team includes three Russians, two Americans, and one Japanese.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden was asked during a budget teleconference what his game plan was if the situation between Russia and the United States escalates.

Bolden, a former astronaut, said he wasn't particularly worried, and reminisced about commanding the first joint U.S.-Russian space shuttle mission with the legendary Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev.

The ISS is jointly run by the U.S., Russia, Canada and Europe through 2020, though NASA would like to continue operations through 2024. This international cooperation is something that is unique.

"The space station is a remarkable engineering achievement, but more importantly it is a wonderful example of international diplomacy," Neal Lane with the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, told ABC News.

Since the space shuttle was retired US astronauts rely on a Russian Soyuz to get back and forth to the space station. NASA pays Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, $71 million per seat for each astronaut. Russia needs the money, the US needs the ride.

NASA wants very much to get its own ride. hence its proposed budget for 2015 escalates funding for private commercial transportation to develop its own spaceship to get to the space station by 2017. So for the next few years it pays to play nice with Russia.

For the astronauts and cosmonauts who live on the orbiting outpost getting along is easy. They share food and camaraderie and are part of an exclusive cadre of people who have a rare view of our planet.

Astronaut Cady Coleman says the view is life-changing.

"When you are looking at Earth from space, you don't see any borders, just a beautiful blue planet," he said.