A Russian astronaut takes off aboard an American rocket in the middle of the war in Ukraine

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

Anna Kikina, the only Russian female astronaut currently on active duty, is part of the crew of Crew-5, which also consists of a Japanese and two Americans, including Nicole Mann, who became the first Native American to go to space.

This long-planned astronaut exchange program has been maintained despite the skyrocketing tensions between the two countries since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Ensuring the functioning of the Space Station (ISS) has thus become one of the very few subjects of cooperation between the United States and Russia. Sergei Krikaliov, the manned flight director for the Russian space agency Roscosmos, was on-site in Florida for what appeared to be a charming offensive, following thunderous comments from his superiors in recent months.

Read also: Russia announces it will leave the International Space Station “after 2024”

At a press conference after take-off, he greeted these joint flights as “A new phase of collaboration”, citing in particular an American-Russian space flight in 1975, then a symbol of détente during the Cold War. Transportation of the citizen of another nation is “A great responsibility”Kathy Lueders, NASA Associate Administrator, pointed out during a press conference in late September.

When asked about the current relationship with Roscosmos, he said: “Operationally, we greatly appreciated the consistency of the relationship, even in a very difficult geopolitical moment. “

Space delivery

Anna Kikina, 38 and an engineer by training, becomes the fifth Russian professional astronaut to go into space. “I hope that in the near future we will have more women in the cosmonaut corps”, he told Agence France-Presse in August. It is also the first space flight of the American astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, but the fifth for the Japanese Koichi Wakata.

After a journey of about thirty hours, their ship will dock at the station on Thursday, some 400 kilometers above sea level. Crew-5 members will join the 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 Cassada and Nicole Mann before their takeoff to the ISS on 5 October 2022.

There are a few days of delivery with the four crew members-4 before they are sent back to Earth. The crew of Crew-5 is to spend approximately five months in orbit and conduct more than 200 scientific experiments. This is SpaceX’s fifth regular mission to the ISS for NASA. Anna Kikina is the first Russian to fly a Falcon-9 rocket, designed by the company of billionaire Elon Musk.

This last Monday he interfered in the debate on the war in Ukraine, asking his Twitter followers to vote on his suggestion to resolve the conflict between Kiev and Moscow. The Ukrainian ambassador to Germany replied, also on Twitter, to go “to be seen”.

Future pending

Tensions between Moscow and Washington have increased significantly in the space field following the announcement of US sanctions against the Russian aerospace industry in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

The former head of the Russian space agency had therefore made ominous remarks about a possible crash of the ISS if the Russians could no longer participate. Then, this summer, his successor said that Russia would leave the ISS “After 2024”in favor of the creation of its own orbital station – but without setting a precise date for the withdrawal.

Read also: Article reserved for our members After the announcement of the Russian withdrawal, what future for the International Space Station?

“We will continue to fly [avec] 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. The Americans have announced that they want to continue operating the station until 2030.

At present, the ISS cannot function without one of its two segments, one American, the other Russian. The latter ensures in particular the maintenance in orbit thanks to a propulsion system.

The world with AFP

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