A Russian capsule has carried an American cosmonaut into space today, marking a remarkable continuation of the Russian-American partnership in space in an era of great geopolitical tension.
The spacecraft took off from the famous Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on board were NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts – Dmitry Petlin and Sergey Prokopyev. About what is expected to be a six-month stay on the International Space Station. Liftoff occurred at 9:54 a.m. ET.
This will be the first trip into space for Rubio, who will serve as an aeronautical engineer on this mission. A trained family doctor, who also has experience as a flight surgeon – which means he has the pieces to take care of any medical issues that may arise during their flight.
Rubio, a native of Florida, joined NASA in 2017. Before being accepted into the Astronaut Corps, he graduated from the United States Military Academy and received his MD from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He has more than 600 hours of combat experience in countries such as Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Rubio is considered his birthplace of Miami, 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 be teaming up with astronauts from the United States, Russia and Europe. The space station, which has constantly had people on board since 2000, maintains a rotating crew base to ensure the orbiting laboratory is constantly staffed with enough astronauts to maintain the space station’s hardware as well as maintain a long history of space. working experiences.
The fact that Rubio travels to space aboard a Russian Soyuz capsule is noteworthy.
The history of transporting humans to and from the International Space Station began with Russia and the United States each having their own rockets to transport their citizens to and from the International Space Station, which became a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation in the late 20th century and early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA retired from the space shuttle program, Russian Soyuz capsules were the only option for American astronauts. NASA is paying up to $90 million for seats on the Soyuz spacecraft.
In 2020, that changed. Years ago, NASA had prepared its own plan to allow privatized companies to take on the task of transporting astronauts to and from the space station. And Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been doing so 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 it staffs the International Space Station.
However, tension between the United States and Russia came to a head after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
But after years of sharing flights on Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX came onto the scene, one of the big questions that emerged was whether the United States and Russia would continue to put astronauts side by side on International Space Station missions.
This was responded to in July when NASA and its Russian counterpart Roscosmos confirmed that seat sharing for rocket flights to the space station would continue. Russian cosmonauts are now expected to fly aboard the SpaceX capsules, as well as NASA astronauts sharing their seats aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
The United States and Russia are the primary operators of the International Space Station, with both countries controlling its daily operations. Importantly, the Russian-controlled portion houses the thrust needed to keep the International Space Station afloat in Earth’s orbit. NASA has repeatedly stated 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 prior to this mission.
“It was an honor to be here,” CNN reporter Kristen Fisher said during a press conference in August. “We have a very strong NASA team that is here to support the mission…I think every one of us would say we feel safe.”