June 3, 2023

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In the middle of the war in Ukraine, a Russian cosmonaut takes off on an American rocket

A Russian cosmonaut took off from the United States for the International Space Station on Wednesday, October 5, aboard a rocket from the American company SpaceX, a particularly symbolic move amid the war in Ukraine.

Anna Kikhina, the only female Russian cosmonaut currently on active duty, was part of the Crew-5 crew and was the first Native American to go into space, along with a Japanese and two Americans, including Nicole Mann.

The long-planned astronaut exchange program has been maintained despite high tensions between the two countries since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February. Ensuring the operation of the ISS has become one of the few areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia. Sergei Krikaliov, the director of unmanned aerial vehicles at the Russian space agency Roscosmos, seemed akin to a charm offensive in Florida after thunderous comments from his superiors in recent months.

read more: Russia has announced that it will leave the International Space Station after 2024.

In a press conference following the take-off, he praised the joint flights “A New Phase of Cooperation”, specifically referring to a US-Russian space flight in 1975, later became a symbol of deterrence during the Cold War. Transporting a citizen of another country “A Great Responsibility”NASA Associate Administrator Kathy Lueders made the point during a press conference in late September.

Asked about his current relationship with Roscomos, he said: “Even at a very difficult time operationally, geopolitically, we really appreciated the stability of the relationship. »

Spatial handover

Anna Kikhina, 38 and an engineer by training, is the fifth Russian female professional astronaut to go into space. “I hope there will be more women in the astronaut corps in the future”He announced to Agence France-Presse in August.

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It was the first space flight for American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Kasada, but the fifth for Japanese Koichi Wakata.

After a journey of about 30 hours, their ship will touch down on Thursday at an altitude of about 400 km. Members of Crew-5 will join seven people already on board (two Russians, four Americans and one Italian).

From left to right, Japan's Koichi Wakata, Russia's Anna Kikina, and Americans Josh Kasada and Nicole Mann before departure in the direction of the ISS.  October 5, 2022.

The plan is to hand over a few days with the four members of Crew-4, who will be returned to Earth. Crew-5’s crew will spend about five months in orbit and conduct more than 200 science experiments. This is the fifth routine mission to the Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX on behalf of NASA. Anna Kikhina is the first Russian to fly on the Falcon 9 rocket designed by billionaire Elon Musk’s company.

The latter intervened in the debate on the war in Ukraine on Monday, asking his Twitter followers to vote on his own proposal for resolving the conflict between Kiev and Moscow. The Ukrainian Ambassador to Germany responded, still on Twitter, Go “must see”.

A future in suspense

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have risen significantly in the space sector after the US announced sanctions against the Russian space industry in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The previous head of the Russian space agency made ominous comments about the possible crash of the ISS if the Russians could no longer participate. Russia will leave the ISS this summer, his successor said “After 2024”In favor of building its own orbital station — though without setting a precise date for withdrawal.

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read more: The article is reserved for our subscribers What is the future of the International Space Station after the announcement of Russia’s withdrawal?

“We will continue to fly [avec] International Space Station” until our new infrastructure is under construction., Sergey Krikaliov from Roscosmos, said on Wednesday. But this construction has not yet started and according to experts, it will take several years. The Americans have announced that they want to continue operating the station until 2030.

As things stand, the ISS cannot function without one of two units, one American and the other Russian. The latter ensures maintenance in orbit thanks to a propulsion system.

The world with AFP