A Russian cosmonaut flying to the ISS in an American rocket amid the war in Ukraine

Published on Wednesday, October 05, 2022, at 18:27.

A Russian cosmonaut took off Wednesday from the US for the International Space Station on a rocket from the American firm SpaceX, a particularly symbolic mission amid the war in Ukraine.

The only female Russian cosmonaut currently in active service, Anna Kikina is part of the Crew-5 crew, which consists of one Japanese and two Americans, including Nicole Mann, the first Native American to go into space.

The lift took place Wednesday noon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. This is the fifth regular mission to the Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX on behalf of NASA.

Two weeks ago, an American took off for the ISS on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

This long-planned astronaut exchange program has continued despite very high tensions between the two countries since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. Ensuring the operation of the ISS has thus become one of the few issues of cooperation between the US and Russia.

NASA’s deputy administrator, Kathy Lueders, said at a news conference at the end of September that transporting a citizen of another nation was a “big responsibility”.

When asked about the current relationship with the Russian space agency Roscomos, he said, “We really appreciated the consistency of the relationship even at a very difficult time operationally, geopolitically.”

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

– Transfer –

Anna Kikina, 38, a trained engineer, became the fifth Russian female professional cosmonaut in space. “I hope in the near future there will be more women in the bodies of cosmonauts,” she told AFP in August.

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

After a journey of about 30 hours, the ships will dock at the station, which is about 400 km above sea level, on Thursday.

Crew-5 members will join the seven people currently on board (two Russians, four Americans and an Italian).

With four members of Crew-4, a handover of several days is scheduled before being sent back to Earth.

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

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

Second, he intervened in the debate on the war in Ukraine on Monday, prompting his Twitter followers to vote on his proposal to resolve the dispute between Kyiv and Moscow. This meant, in particular, the cession of Crimea to Russia. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany still replied “fuck yourself” on Twitter.

– Floating future –

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

Thus, Russia announced this summer that it wants to leave the ISS “after 2024” in favor of the creation of its own orbital station – but without setting an exact date for its withdrawal.

Sergei Krikaliov, director of manned flights at Roscosmos, told him on Monday that he “hopes” that the Russian government has agreed to expand participation on the ISS after 2024.

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

Currently, the ISS cannot operate without one of the two divisions it has created, one American and one Russian. Secondly, it provides maintenance especially 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 send astronauts there and paid NASA for places on their rockets. The loss of this monopoly represents a major shortfall for the Russian space program.

This year’s astronaut replacement, which must be renewed in the future, is being done without financial compensation.

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