You are currently viewing In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the United States takes a Russian cosmonaut to the ISS

In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the United States takes a Russian cosmonaut to the ISS

<p>The SpaceX rocket intended to carry the Crew-5 crew to the International Space Station, on its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, October 3, 2022</p>
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<p class=The United States will transport a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard a SpaceX rocket, a mission that is highly symbolic in the midst of the war in Ukraine.

Anna Kikina, the only female Russian cosmonaut currently in active service, is part of the Crew-5 crew, also made up of two Americans and a Japanese. This is the fifth regular mission to the Space Station (ISS) carried out by SpaceX on behalf of NASA.

Takeoff is scheduled for noon Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the weather is expected to be mild.

Two weeks ago, an American took off aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket to the ISS.

This long-planned astronaut exchange program has been maintained despite the very high tensions between the two countries since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Ensuring the operation of the ISS has thus become one of the very few subjects of cooperation between the United States and Russia.

Transporting the citizen of another nation is “a huge responsibility,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator at NASA, told a press conference in late September.

Asked about the current relationship with the Russian space agency Roscomos, she said: “Operationally, we really appreciated the consistency of the relationship, even during a very difficult time geopolitically.”

The head of the ISS at NASA, Joel Montalbano, also praised the “excellent support from Roscosmos” for these joint flights.

– Handover –

<p>Undated photo released on August 26, 2022 by the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos of Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina in a spacesuit in Moscow</p>
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<p class=Anna Kikina, 38 and an engineer by training, will become the fifth Russian female professional cosmonaut to go into space. “I hope that in the near future we will have more women in the corps of cosmonauts,” she told AFP in August.

It will also be the first spaceflight for American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, but the fifth for Japan’s Koichi Wakata.

After a journey of about 30 hours, their ship will dock Thursday at the Station, which is evolving at an altitude of about 400 km.

Members of Crew-5 will join the seven people already on board (two Russians, four Americans, and one Italian).

A few days of handover are planned with the four members of Crew-4, before they are sent back to Earth.

Crew-5 must spend about five months in orbit, and conduct more than 200 scientific experiments, including more than 70 new aboard the flying laboratory.

Anna Kikina will also be the first Russian to fly in a Falcon 9 rocket designed by billionaire Elon Musk’s company.

The latter interfered in discussions on Ukraine on Monday, asking his Twitter followers to vote on his own suggestion to settle the conflict between kyiv and Moscow. This implied in particular the abandonment of the Crimea to Russia. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany replied, still on Twitter, to go “screw himself”.

– Floating future –

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have increased considerably in the space field after the announcement of American sanctions against the Russian aerospace industry, in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

<p>The International Space Station (ISS) photographed in November 2018</p>
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<p class=Russia thus announced this summer that it wanted to leave the ISS “after 2024” in favor of the creation of its own orbital station – without however setting a precise date for a withdrawal.

The director of manned flights at Roscosmos, Sergei Krikaliov, declared to him on Monday “hope” that the Russian government agrees to extend participation in the ISS after 2024.

The Americans have already said they want to continue operating the Station until 2030.

As things stand, the ISS cannot function without one of the two segments of which it is made up, one American, the other Russian. The latter ensures in particular the maintenance in orbit thanks to a propulsion system.

Between 2011 and SpaceX’s first flight to the ISS in 2020, Russia was the only one able to transport astronauts there to the Station, and charged NASA for places on board its rockets. The loss of this monopoly represents a significant shortfall for the Russian space program.

The exchange of astronauts this year, which must be renewed in the future, is done without financial compensation.