World News – United States – Russia launches new ISS crew for accelerated travel


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October 14, 2020

by Christopher Rickleton

Two cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut took to the skies on a fast-track trip to the International Space Station on Wednesday, in the first such launch aboard a Russian capsule since SpaceX’s first manned flight from US soil

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Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and Kathleen Rubins of NASA launched from Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 05.45 GMT Wednesday

A NASA TV commentator said everything was fine, citing communications between Russian Mission Control and the crew, while Roscosmos said the capsule managed to go into orbit

Their trip will be the first manned flight to the ISS to last just over three hours before docking – a new accelerated profile that takes half the time of standard trips to the orbital lab

Only an unmanned Progress spacecraft has ever used this profile, which only requires two orbits before docking

Strict precautions, including a stricter quarantine and wearing of the mask before launch, have been taken due to the coronavirus pandemic, but astronauts and space officials have dismissed any concerns about a risk of ‘infection on the station

The launch is sandwiched between two SpaceX launches – the first manned space flights to the ISS under the aegis of NASA since 2011

Prior to May 30, when American astronauts Robert Behnken and Doug Hurley arrived at the ISS, Russia and Baikonur enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on manned missions to the ISS

The NASA duo returned home safe and sound on August 2, and a new SpaceX launch, this time in preparation for a full semester mission to the space station, is slated for next month

The emergence of private players SpaceX and Boeing – which is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew program – has fueled discussions on a new ‘space race’ between a number of countries

But the men and women who fly to the space station played down discussions about competition and instead focused on the ability of space travel to bring rival nations together for a common cause

Speaking at a pre-launch press conference on Tuesday, Rubins did not directly refer to the SpaceX flight when asked how she felt on board in a new era of space flight

« We don’t have the option to choose our launch date or what happens on the station, but I certainly feel incredibly lucky to be on the station when these events happen, » said the American astronaut, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Wednesday

Rubins was a microbiologist who researched the Ebola virus among other viruses before she began training as an astronaut, first launching into the ISS in 2016

She said she would be working on experiments such as « bioprinting tissues and growing cells in space and, of course, continuing our work on DNA sequencing »

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The astronaut added that she finds it highly unlikely that the coronavirus – which saw the revised pre-flight protocols at Baikonur – could find its way onto the ISS

« We have a very strict quarantine, almost starting in March from my perception, » she said, noting that the crew had been regularly tested for the virus

Ryzhikov, a 46-year-old former military pilot, spent 173 days in space against 115 of Rubins while Kud-Sverchkov, 37, flies for the first time

On the eve of the launch, Ryzhikov expressed his sadness over the ongoing fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and said he hoped the example of the ISS could help « spread love, friendship and camaraderie « 

The ISS, which has been permanently occupied since 2000, is a rare example of cooperation between Moscow and Washington, but the project may be entering its final decade

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, also said on Monday that he did not consider Moscow participating « on a large scale » in a NASA-led lunar orbiting station known as by The Gateway

The proposed new station « is too US-centric, » Rogozin said

© 2020 AFP

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International Space Station, NASA, Astronaut, Roscosmos, Kathleen Rubins, Sergey Ryzhikov, Soyuz, SpaceX

World News – United States – Russia launches new crew to the ISS for accelerated travel


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