The joint flight comes after Russia recently said it would withdraw from the space station after 2024 amid tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine.
An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts are about to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) on a Russian-operated flight despite rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the Russian invasion of Ukraine .
NASA’s Frank Rubio and Russia’s Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin are scheduled to lift off from Russia’s leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 13:54 GMT on Wednesday, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos.
Rubio will become the first American astronaut to travel to the ISS aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket since President Vladimir Putin sent troops to pro-Western Ukraine.
In response, Western capitals, including Washington, hit Moscow with unprecedented sanctions and bilateral relations hit new lows.
However, space has managed to remain an outlier of cooperation between the two countries.
After Rubio’s flight, Russia’s only active cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, is scheduled to travel to the orbital station in early October aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon.
She will become only the fifth professional female cosmonaut from Russia or the Soviet Union to fly in space, and the first Russian to fly aboard a spacecraft from SpaceX, the company of American billionaire Elon Musk.
With both flights set to continue, Russian cosmonauts and Western astronauts have sought to avoid the conflict raging on Earth, especially when orbiting together.
Speaking a few weeks ago, NASA’s Rubio called it an “incredibly important mission” and said he had become “good friends” with his Russian teammates.
Rubio called the cooperation between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos “good and strong”, despite heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington.
Russia leaves the ISS
Currently, the ISS depends on a Russian propulsion system to maintain its orbit, about 400 km above sea level, with the American segment responsible for power and life support systems.
However, space tensions rose after Washington announced sanctions against Moscow’s aerospace industry, prompting warnings from former Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin, a staunch supporter of war in Ukraine. .
Russia recently said it would withdraw from the space station after 2024 in light of the conflict – but no exact date has been given and some analysts doubt Russia will follow suit.
NASA called the move an “unfortunate development” that would hamper scientific work being done on the ISS.
Space analysts say building a new orbital station could take more than 10 years and Russia’s space industry, a point of national pride, could not thrive under heavy sanctions.
The ISS was launched in 1998 at a time of hope for US-Russian cooperation after their Space Race competition during the Cold War.
At this time, the Soviet space program flourished. He boasted of a number of achievements, including sending the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first satellite four years earlier.
But experts say Roscosmos is now a shadow of its former self and has suffered a series of setbacks in recent years, including corruption scandals and the loss of a number of satellites and other craft. spatial.
Russia’s years-long monopoly on crewed flights to the ISS is also gone, for SpaceX, with millions of dollars in revenue.