NASA astronaut, Russian cosmonaut launched into space

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CNN Business

A Russian ship launched an American astronaut into space today, marking a remarkable continuation of the Russian-American partnership in space in the era great geopolitical tension.

The spacecraft took off from the famous Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronauts Dr. Frank Rubio and two Russian cosmonauts – Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev – about what is expected to be a six-month stay on the International Space Station. The lift-off occurred at 9:54 a.m. ET. Hours later, just after 1 p.m. ET, the Soyuz capsule docked at the ISS, allowing astronauts to board the space station.

This is the first spacewalk for Rubio, who will serve as a flight engineer on this mission. As a trained family doctor, he also has experience as an in-flight surgeon – meaning he is skilled enough to take care of any medical issues that may arise during the flight. their journey.

Rubio, a Florida native, joined NASA in 2017. Before being accepted into the crew, he graduated from the United States Military Academy and earned a doctorate in medicine from the Uniformed Services College of Health Sciences. He has more than 600 hours of combat experience in countries like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. According to NASA, Rubio considers Miami to be his hometown, even though 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 been continuously manned since 2000, keeps a rotating base of crew members to ensure the orbital lab always has enough astronaut staff to maintain its hardware. space station as well as keeping a long record of space-activity-based experiments.

The fact that Rubio is traveling into space on a Russian Soyuz capsule is remarkable.

The history of sending people to and from the International Space Station began with Russia and the US both having their own rockets to ferry their citizens to and from the ISS, becoming a symbol of cooperation after the Cold War. in the late 20th century and early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA discontinued the Space Shuttle program, Russian Soyuz capsules were the only option for American astronauts. NASA paid up to $90 million for seats on the Soyuz spacecraft.

In 2020, that has changed. NASA, many years ago, make your own plans allows private companies to take on the task of ferrying astronauts to and from the space station. And Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been doing it ever since, starting with Demo-2 Mission in 2020 and most recently preparing for the Crew-5 mission. SpaceX launches have become routine for NASA, allowing NASA to regain some control over how the ISS is organized.

However, tensions between the United States and Russia reached a fever pitch after Russia Invades Ukraine in February.

But after years of sharing rides in Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX arrived on the scene, one of the big questions is whether the US and Russia will continue to put their astronauts side by side. together on ISS missions or not.

That was answered in July when NASA and its Russian partner, Roscosmos, confirm that seat sharing on rocket trips to the space station will continue. Russian cosmonauts are now supposed to fly on SpaceX capsules with NASA astronauts sharing seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

The United States and Russia are the main operators of the ISS, both of which control its day-to-day operations. More importantly, the Russian-controlled segment contains the engines needed to keep the ISS afloat in Earth orbit. And NASA has say many times that one of its goals is to ensure continued cooperation between the United States and Russia in space.

Rubio, as many US astronauts did before him, went to Russia to train with Russian cosmonauts before this mission.

“It’s a privilege to be here,” he told CNN’s Kristin Fisher in one August press conference. “We have a pretty strong NASA team here to support the mission… I think every one of us would say we feel safe.”

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