A Russian capsule carried an American astronaut into space today, marking a notable continuation of the Russian-American partnership in space at a time of great geopolitical tension.
The spacecraft took off from the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts – Dmitry Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev – on what should be a six-month stay on the International Space Station. Liftoff was at 9:54 a.m. ET.
This will be the first space trip for Rubio, who will serve as a flight engineer on this mission. A qualified family doctor, he also has experience as a flight surgeon, meaning he has the chops to take care of any medical issues that may arise during their trip.
Rubio, a Florida native, joined NASA in 2017. Prior to being accepted into the astronaut corps, he graduated from the United States Military Academy and earned an MD from Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. . He has over 600 hours of combat experience in countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Rubio considers Miami his hometown, according to NASA, although he was born in California and his mother lives in El Salvador.
When Rubio and his Russian counterparts arrive at the space station, they will team up with astronauts from the United States, Russia and Europe. The space station, which has continuously had people on board since the year 2000, maintains a rotating base of crew members to ensure that the orbiting laboratory is constantly staffed with enough astronauts to maintain the space station hardware as well as keeping a long space diary. current experiences.
The fact that Rubio travels to space on a Russian Soyuz capsule is remarkable.
The history of getting humans to and from the International Space Station began with Russia and the United States, each having their own rockets to get their citizens to and from the ISS, which has become a symbol of the post-Cold War cooperation in the late 20th century and early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA retired its space shuttle program, Russian Soyuz capsules were the only option for American astronauts. NASA has paid up to $90 million for seats aboard a Soyuz spacecraft.
In 2020, that changed. NASA had, years before, concocted its own plan to allow privatized companies to take over the task of shuttling astronauts to the space station. And Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been doing it ever since, starting with the Demo-2 mission in 2020 and most recently preparing for the Crew-5 mission. SpaceX launches have become routine for NASA, allowing it to regain some control over how the ISS is staffed.
Tension between the United States and Russia came to a head, however, after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
But after years of sharing rides on Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX came on the scene, one of the big questions that arose was whether the US and Russia would continue to put their astronauts side by side. alongside in ISS missions.
This was answered in July when NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, confirmed that seat sharing on rocket rides to the space station would continue. Russian cosmonauts are now expected to fly on SpaceX capsules in addition to NASA astronauts sharing seats on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
The United States and Russia are the primary operators of the ISS, with both countries controlling its day-to-day operations. Importantly, the Russian-controlled segment houses the propulsion needed to keep the ISS afloat in Earth orbit. And NASA has repeatedly said that one of its goals is to ensure continued cooperation between the United States and Russia in space.
Rubio, like many American astronauts before him, traveled to Russia to train with Russian cosmonauts before this mission.
“It’s been a privilege to be here,” he told CNN’s Kristen Fisher at a press conference in August. “We have a pretty robust NASA team that’s there to support the mission…I think all of us would say we feel safe.”
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