Russian Launches to Space From US, 1st Time in 20 Years
For the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut left the United States on Wednesday, launching towards the International Space Station alongside NASA and Japanese astronauts, despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.
Their SpaceX flight was delayed by Hurricane Ian, which devastated the state last week.
“We hope this launch will brighten the skies of Florida a little for everyone,” said Koichi Wakata of the Japanese Space Agency, which is on its fifth space flight.
Three newcomers to space join him on a five-month mission: Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to orbit the Earth; captain Josh Cassada; and Russia’s only female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina.
“Noteworthy!” Mann said as they reached orbit. “It was a smooth climb. You have three rookies who are quite happy floating in space right now.
They are expected to arrive at the space station on Thursday, 29 hours after the noon departure from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and will not return to Earth until March. They replace an Italian-American crew that arrived in April.
Kikina is the Russian Space Agency’s swap for NASA’s Frank Rubio, which was launched on the space station two weeks ago from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket. He flew with two cosmonauts.
Space agencies agreed over the summer to swap seats on their flights to ensure the continued presence of the United States and Russia aboard the 260-mile (420-kilometer) outpost. ). Bartering was also allowed as global hostilities escalated following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February. The next crew change will take place in the spring.
Shortly before takeoff, NASA administrator Bill Nelson said the main reason for the seat swap was safety, in case an emergency forces a capsule crew to return home. , there would always be an American and a Russian on board.
Meanwhile, Russia remains attached to the space station until at least 2024, Russian space official Sergei Krikalev told reporters this week. Russia wants to build its own station in orbit at the end of this decade, “but we know it won’t happen anytime soon and so we’ll probably keep flying” with NASA until then, he said.
Beginning with Krikalev in 1994, NASA began flying cosmonauts on its space shuttles, first to the Russian Mir space station and then to the fledgling space station. The disaster of Columbia’s re-entry in 2003 put an end to it. But American astronauts continued hitchhiking Russian rockets for tens of millions of dollars per seat.
Kakina is only the fifth Russian woman to take off the planet. She said she was surprised that she was selected for the seat swap after encountering “many tests and obstacles” during her ten years of training. “But I did. Maybe I’m lucky. I’m strong,” she said.
Mann is a member of the Wailacki of the Round Valley Indian tribes in California and collects his mother’s dream catcher, a small traditional webbed circle believed to provide protection. Retired NASA astronaut John Herrington of the Chickasaw Nation became the first Native American in space in 2002.
“I am very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann said before the flight, adding that all members of his crew had a unique experience. “It is important to celebrate our diversity and realize how important it is to collaborate and come together, the incredible results we can achieve.”
Regarding the war in Ukraine, Mann said the four have put aside politics and personal beliefs, “and it’s really nice to see how the joint space station mission unites us instantly.”
Cassada added: “We have the opportunity to be an example to society on how to work together, live together and explore together.”
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has now launched eight crews since 2020: six for NASA and two private groups. Boeing, NASA’s other contracted taxi service, plans to make its first astronaut flight early next year after delays in troubleshooting software and other problems during space flights. test.