SpaceX is preparing to send a Russian to the ISS despite the war in Ukraine

This is a first: SpaceX will transport a Russian cosmonaut to the International Space Station. All this in a degraded geopolitical context between Americans and Russians.

It will be a great first time. And perhaps a slightly odd moment given the geopolitical situation born of the war in Ukraine. On September 29, 2022, at the earliest, a Falcon 9 rocket powered by SpaceX will be launched from the United States. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. On board a crew. Again, routine. But among the astronauts there will be a Russian.

A Russian cosmonaut on a SpaceX flight

Anna Kikina is actually announced along with two Americans, Nicole Aunapu Mann and Josh A. Cassada, and Japanese Koichi Wakata. Only the latter is a veteran, with four space missions already under his belt. The other three open theirs on the occasion of the SpaceX Crew-5 mission, which will take them to the International Space Station (ISS).

The presence of a Russian in this escape seems incongruous in light of the tensions that are now heavily straining relations between Moscow and Washington, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, the presence of cosmonaut Anna Kikina was already considered on board the American plane, months before the military aggression.

SpaceX Crew 5. Anna Kikina is on the left. // Source: NASA

This participation is part of an exchange of best practices between the two parties. The Americans are offering a seat in the Falcon 9 rocket to a member of Roscosmos, the Russian space agency. In return, the Russians reserve a place for a NASA astronaut on board a Soyuz rocket. In both cases, it is a matter of having a ticket to the ISS.

Historically, the United States and Russia have intensified their space cooperation in recent decades – the International Space Station is partly the result of this rapprochement. In the past, each has transported personnel from each other on various occasions. The days of direct rivalry during the Cold War appeared to be over.

Today is rather the time to distance ourselves between the two parties. One sign among others: Russia wants to disconnect from the ISS from 2024, which sooner or later will result in a stop to these shared flights. Eventually, Moscow would like to have its own space station again, as in Mir’s time, but at the moment no module has been built.


NASA SpaceX astronaut // Source: NASA

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