A Russian cosmonaut takes off on an American rocket amid the war in Ukraine.

Published on Wednesday, October 05, 2022, at 23:57.

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 on active duty, 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.

Takeoff took place Wednesday afternoon 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.

Sergei Krikaliov, director of manned flights for the Russian space agency Roscosmos, has been in Florida for what looks like a lure attack after thunderous statements from his superiors in recent months.

In a press conference after takeoff, he hailed these joint flights as “a new phase of cooperation” and specifically spoke of an American-Russian spaceflight in 1975, then a symbol of détente during the Cold War.

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 Roscomos, he said, “Operationally, we really appreciated the consistency of the relationship even in a very difficult geopolitical period.”

– Transfer –

Anna Kikina, 38, a trained engineer, became the fifth Russian female professional cosmonaut in space. “I hope we will have more women in the cosmonaut corps in the near future,” 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 approximately 30 hours, the ships will dock at the station at an altitude of approximately 400 km 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.

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. 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.

The previous head of the Russian space agency had made threatening statements about a possible collapse of the ISS if the Russians could no longer participate. Then this summer, its successor Russia will leave the ISS “after 2024”, in favor of creating its own orbital station – without setting a specific date for withdrawal.

“We will continue to fly with the International Space Station as long as our new infrastructure is under construction,” Sergei Krikaliov of Roscosmos said on Wednesday. But this construction has not yet begun and, according to experts, should take many years.

Mr Krikaliov had already said on Monday that he “hopes” that his government has agreed to expand participation on the ISS after 2024.

The Americans have announced that 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.

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