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

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

The relay of the international space station was a bit desired, showing a few days delay due to a hurricane in Florida, but it ended up arriving on the night of Thursday to Friday. And not just any successor! The crew of the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, was particularly cosmopolitan with two NASA astronauts, the Japanese Koichi Wakata and… a Russian, Anna Kikina. Quite a symbol in a context of war in Ukraine more tense than ever.

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

work smart

The astronaut exchange program was intended 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 least of it… But the former head of Roscomos, Dmitri Rogozine had managed to sow doubt in recent months, by dint of remembering that the Russians are in charge of maintaining the altitude of the space station, and to threaten in the social networks with bringing down the ISS if economic sanctions against Russia are not lifted. Fortunately for everyone, the belligerent Rogozin was removed from office. And, on the same day, an ISS program manager at NASA formalized the astronaut exchange pact. The message is now clear: the Americans and the 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 Defense Industry and Space. A man of a completely different temperament. “The former director of Roscosmos, Dmitry Rogozin, was quite strident”, confided at the end of September the head of NASA, Bill Nelson, passing through Paris on the occasion of the International Astronautical Congress. So what “the new director, Yuri Borissov…” He pauses and draws with his hand a sea of ​​oil: “He’s not making waves.” Bill Nelson now says that he is convinced that he can work with the Russians on the ISS until the late 2020s, as originally planned. The space station is due to be desorbed in 2031. However, Yuri Borissov announced this summer that “the decision was made” for the Russians to leave the ISS “after 2024”, a statement that caused a stir but does not mean much. The Russians feign hesitation, and almost every week a new communique comes out without consequence.

Calm the tensions

For his part, Roscosmos CEO Sergei Krikalev appears to be on the same peaceful wavelength as Bill Nelson. On Tuesday, he told a news conference that he had the authorization of the Russian government to extend the collaboration with the Americans after 2024. “I hope we can cooperate like in 1975 when it started”the official said, vowing that 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 relief flight to the ISS. One of the two NASA 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”the 45-year-old aviator said. “It’s important to celebrate our diversity and also realize how important it is to collaborate and come together, the incredible successes we can achieve together.” The message is clear.

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