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US delivers Russian cosmonaut to orbit

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Cosmonaut Anna Kikina traveled to the International Space Station on the SpaceX Crew-5 mission

A Russian cosmonaut has traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) on board a US spacecraft for the primary time in 20 years. Anna Kikina was a part of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission that docked on Friday, within the second flight underneath the seat-sharing program between Russia and the US.

The SpaceX capsule ‘Endurance’ launched on October 5 from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and efficiently docked with the ISS on Friday afternoon. In addition to Kikina, the crew additionally included NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada, in addition to Japan’s Koichi Wakata.  

Kikina’s participation within the mission has been made doable by way of an settlement signed on June 14, 2022 between NASA and the Russian area company Roscosmos. The landmark deal was reached regardless of the worsening relations because of the ongoing battle in Ukraine and concerned a sequence of crew exchanges.

The settlement includes a complete of three flights by Russian cosmonauts on the SpaceX Dragon spaceships, and three flights by the US astronauts on the Soyuz spacecraft.  The first seat-exchange mission was launched in September, when US astronaut Frank Rubio joined two Russian cosmonauts, Sergey Prokopyev and Dmirty Petelin, on board their Soyuz-2.1a.

During the launch, Kikina thanked each Roscosmos, NASA, and the Japanese area company JAXA for offering her with this chance. 

“We’re so glad to do it together. Thank you everybody for being with us,” she mentioned in Russian and in English, after the capsule departed for orbit.

Kikina is the one feminine cosmonaut on the present Russian roster. She was described as an “ambassador of goodwill” by then-Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin in December 2021, when the deal was nonetheless being negotiated. 

“Our beautiful cosmonaut will be the first Russian to fulfill the flight exchange program,” Rogozin had advised reporters on the time.

Russians have beforehand used US spacecraft to succeed in orbit between 1994 and 2002, when the NASA Space Shuttle program was nonetheless in existence. The first such joint missions allowed the US astronauts to go to the Russian Mir area station as a part of the ‘Shuttle-Mir program’ whereas the remaining concerned flights to the ISS. NASA discontinued the Shuttle program in 2011, nonetheless, and needed to depend on Roscosmos to ferry astronauts to the area station till 2020.

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