the American spacecraft Crew Dragon sends a Russian cosmonaut aboard the ISS – Liberation

In the midst of a crisis between Moscow and Washington, engineer Anna Kikina arrived on the International Space Station on Thursday after traveling aboard a SpaceX vehicle. Russians and Americans say they want to continue working “in good intelligence” to keep the orbital base operational.

Rescue from the International Space Station was a bit wanted, a few days late due to a hurricane in Florida, but it came in the night between Thursday and Friday. And not just any successor! The crew of the spacecraft Crew Dragon, which took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, was particularly cosmopolitan with two NASA astronauts, the Japanese Koichi Wakata and … a Russian, Anna Kikina. Rather a symbol in a more tense context of war in Ukraine than ever.

This invitation was decided in July, as part of a sort of exchange program between NASA and Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. On September 21, American Francisco Rubio was invited into the small cockpit of the Soyuz spacecraft, along with two Russian colleagues, to join the ISS. As a reminder of the 2011-2020 era, when Americans no longer had a national spacecraft to travel to space, after the American spacecraft was shut down. For a decade, Western astronauts have traveled in Russian rockets, paying increasingly expensive tickets (from $ 20 million in 2010, Soyuz space has risen to $ 81 million). NASA has since regained independent access to Earth’s orbit with SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft. Now he can return the favor to the Russians by welcoming one of them into this next-generation shuttle. And seeing a cosmonaut take off in Cape Canaveral is the first time in twenty years.

Work smart

The astronaut exchange program aimed to ensure the continued presence of at least one American and one Russian aboard the station, even if a space capsule had to urgently return to Earth, the two agencies explained. The collaborative navigation and maintenance work of the ISS will thus be ensured. Which is the last of things … But the former Roscomos boss, Dmitri Rogozine had managed to question in recent months, by dint of remembering that it is the Russians who are responsible for maintaining the altitude of the space station, and they threaten on social networks to bring down the ISS if economic sanctions against Russia are not lifted. Fortunately for all, the belligerent Rogozin has been removed from his post. And, on the same day, a NASA ISS program manager formalized the astronaut swap pact. The message is now clear: Americans and Russians will continue to work together in space, on good terms.

Rogozin was replaced by Yuri Borissov, who until then was deputy prime minister of the Russian government in charge of the defense and space industry. A man with a completely different temperament. “The former director of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, was quite jarring”, confided at the end of September the boss of NASA, Bill Nelson, passing through Paris on the occasion of the International Astronautical Congress. Instead “The new director, Yuri Borissov …” He stops and draws a sea of ​​oil with his hand: “He’s not making waves.” Bill Nelson is now convinced that he can work with the Russians on the ISS until the late 1920s, as originally planned. The space station is to be desorbed in 2031. Yet Yuri Borissov announced it this summer “The decision has been made” for the Russians to leave the ISS “after 2024”, a claim that caused a stir but doesn’t mean much. The Russians pretend to hesitate, and almost every week a new statement comes out with no consequences.

Calm the tensions

For his part, Roscosmos executive director Sergei Krikalev seems on the same peaceful wavelength as Bill Nelson. At a press conference on Tuesday, he said he was counting on the Russian government’s authorization to extend collaboration with the Americans after 2024. “I hope we can work together like in 1975 when it started”the official said, vowing he is doing his best to ease all tensions between the two agencies.

The presence of a Russian among the Americans is not the only strong symbol of this rescue flight to the ISS. One of NASA’s two astronauts, Nicole Mann, is a member of the Round Valley Indian tribes in California. “I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage”said the 45-year-old aviator. “It is important to celebrate our diversity and also to realize how important it is to collaborate and unite, the incredible successes we can achieve together.” The message is clear.

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