WASHINGTON — The Russian ambassador to the United States said Jan. 31 that Russia would be open to enhanced cooperation in space should the Trump administration pursue improved relations between the countries.

Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, speaking at a meeting of the American Physical Society here, said that cooperation on space activities is improving in the aftermath of sanctions the U.S. enacted after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“We were notified that NASA wouldn’t be working with us. That was a very bizarre situation. I didn’t understand that,” he said, recalling the restrictions that the U.S. government placed in 2014 on cooperation between NASA and Russia outside of the International Space Station partnership. “But NASA, we need to say, corrected that issue and the collaboration is still continuing pretty well.”

There have been signs of increased cooperation between the U.S. and Russia beyond the ISS in recent months. In October, NASA officials traveled to Moscow and met with Russian counterparts about cooperation on Venera-D, a proposed Russian Venus mission planned for the mid-2020s. That resulted in an agreement to continue discussions for two more years to identify specific roles NASA could play on the mission.

President Donald Trump has suggested he would seek improved relations with Russia, even as investigations proceed into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. It’s not clear yet, though, how any warming of relations would extend to space activities.

“I think it would be premature for me to speculate as to whether this zone of overlapping interests will increase or decrease,” Kislyak said. “We haven’t heard a new policy yet from the United States.”

He suggested, though, there may be opportunities for the countries to cooperate on NASA’s long-term plans for human Mars exploration. “That is moon exploration, which is very much on our agenda. It’s space medicine and many, many other issues,” he said. “Our programs are not identical, but there’s always been a lot of overlap that provides room for serious and significant cooperation.”

“If the U.S. government chooses programs that would be extending that kind of cooperation,” he added, “they will find us to be willing to work with you.”

Kislyak said he considered the ISS a good model for cooperation between the U.S. and Russia on science and technology programs in general. “They advance together the knowledge of mankind. They risk their lives together. They rely on each other in order to be safe and to continue the exploration of space,” he said. “That’s the model we need to strive for.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...