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Despite hostilities, a NASA astronaut travels to the space station with Russian cosmonauts

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In Science and Space: Despite strained US-Russian foreign relations, an American astronaut joined two Russian cosmonauts aboard a Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan and entered orbit Wednesday on a bi-orbital flight to the Space Station.

Three crew members appear relaxed in the cockpit video as they survey their instruments, marking key milestones on their way to orbit. Eight minutes and 45 seconds after takeoff, Soyuz separated from the third-stage turbocharger, solar panels deployed, and the spacecraft departed after the space station.

With Commander Sergey Prokopyev at the controls, accompanied by pilot Dmitry Petelin on the left and NASA astronaut Frank Rubio on the right, the Soyuz 2.1a rocket exploded at 9:54 a.m. ET (6:54:30 p.m.). 54 p.m. local time) and Sped was gently removed from his shooting range at the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

The launch was timed to allow for an accelerated two-orbit rendezvous process, allowing Prokopyev and his teammates to catch up to the orbital outpost just over three hours after launch. The rendezvous took place without a hitch and the Soyuz docked to dock the Earth-facing Rassvet module at 1:06 pm.

The arrival of the new Soyuz crew establishes a carefully choreographed sequence to replace the station’s current seven-member crew. If all goes well, Artemyev, Korsakov and Matveev will return to Earth on September 29, landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan to end a 194-day mission.

Four days later, Crew Dragon Endurance is scheduled to depart from Florida with Crew 5 Commander Nicole Mann, Pilot Josh Cassada, Japanese Astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian Astronaut Anna Kikina. Including a controlled test flight, the launch will mark SpaceX’s seventh station mission. After a week of handover to help familiarize their replacement with station operations, Lindgren, Hines, Watkins and Cristoforetti will unload and return to Earth on October 10 in their own Crew Dragon – Freedom – to complete the 166-hour day mission that began with its launch last April.

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Kikina is the first astronaut assigned to the Crew Dragon flight and the first to fly an American spacecraft since December 2002, when the space shuttle Endeavor carried an astronaut to the station and took two people. another back to Earth. Kikina will live and work in the Russian region, although she will remain a SpaceX crew member. The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying crews to the lab complex between the shuttle’s decommissioning in 2011 and the launch of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which began carrying astronauts launch into orbit in 2020. These seats cost NASA up to $ 90 million each.

Over the past two years, NASA officials have been working with their Russian partners to reach an agreement to begin swapping seats, putting one NASA astronaut on each Soyuz station and one on each Crew Dragon. No money will change hands because both parties benefit. Since crews must take off and land on the same vehicle, a medical emergency or other major problem could require the crew to leave the station and return to Earth sooner than planned. ants. The seat-swap arrangement ensures that at least one NASA astronaut and one cosmonaut are always on the station to operate their respective systems. The Russians provide the propulsion and rocket power needed to keep the station in orbit and avoid space debris, while NASA provides most of the electrical power for the lab, near-continuous communications, and other facilities. The giant gyroscope helps the station to always operate in the correct orientation of the outpost.

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“It just builds camaraderie and trust in a way that’s very important to maintain, especially in times like these where there are tensions and other aspects. So I’m very excited. It’s an honor to represent our nation and I’m proud to be here. I can’t stress enough about how good I think that is.”

The deal took longer than expected because the Russians wanted to first assess the security of the Crew Dragon system, and then because of the increasingly strained relationship following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “It is important to realize that there is a long history of cooperation from the Apollo-Soyuz program, to the space shuttle-Mir program and now more than 20 years of cooperation on the ISS,” he said. Kikina is the first astronaut to fly under the recently signed seat-swap agreement while Rubio is the first American to fly a Soyuz since astronaut Mark Vande Hei was blown up on a flight in April. year 2021.

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