A Russian cosmonaut took off for the International Space Station on Wednesday (October 5th) aboard a rocket from the American company SpaceX, a mission that was particularly symbolic 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.
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.
At a press conference after takeoff, he hailed these codeshare flights as follows: “A new stage in cooperation”, specifically mentioning an American-Russian spaceflight in 1975, a symbol of détente during the Cold War at the time. Carrying a citizen of another nation, “a great responsibility”It was underlined by Kathy Lueders, deputy administrator at NASA, at a press conference held at the end of September.
When asked about his current relationship with Roscomos, he said: “Operationally, we really appreciated the consistency of the relationship even in a very difficult time geopolitically. »
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”He announced it to Agence France-Presse 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. This is the fifth regular mission to the Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX on behalf of NASA. 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 responded on Twitter to go “to be seen”.
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 his successor said that Russia will leave the ISS “after 2024”in favor of the creation of its own orbital station – but without setting a firm date for its withdrawal.
“We will continue to fly [avec] 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. 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.