© Reuters. Russian cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov pose for a photo during a press conference ahead of the expedition to the International Space Station (ISS) at the Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan March 17, 2022. Roscosmos/Handout via R


By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Three Russian cosmonauts were launched Friday en route to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue a shared Russian-American presence of more than two decades aboard the orbiting outpost, despite tensions over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying the new cosmonaut team lifted off from Russia’s Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at approximately 1555 GMT (11:55 GMT) and embarked on a journey of more than three hours to the space station.

Soyuz commander Oleg Artemyev led the team, along with two rookies in aerospace, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, on a science mission that will last 6-1/2 months. The launch was broadcast live by NASA TV and on the US Space Agency’s website.

About 2-1/2 hours into the flight, the Soyuz became visible from the space station as a small black dot that gradually got bigger as it got closer, the NASA webcast showed.

The three cosmonauts will join the station’s current seven-member crew to replace the three who will fly back to Earth on March 30: cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov and American NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei.

Vande Hei will have set a NASA record of 355 days in orbit by the time he returns to Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz capsule with his two cosmonaut colleagues.

On board the ISS, the newcomers will remain until the next rotation a few months later, three NASA astronauts — Tom Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron — and German crewmate Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency.

Those four crew members arrived together in November aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon craft launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin a six-month stint in orbit.

Launched in 1998, the research platform orbiting around 400 km above the Earth has been continuously occupied since November 2000 by a US-Russia-led partnership that includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.


The latest change in ISS personnel comes as the durability of the long-standing US-Russia cooperation in space is tested by heightened opposition between the two former Cold War adversaries over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month. .

As part of US economic sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government last month, US President Joe Biden ordered high-tech export restrictions on Moscow that he said were designed to “degrade” Russia’s aerospace industry. including the space program.

Dmitry Rogozin, director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, then lashed out in a series of tweets suggesting that the US sanctions could “destroy” the ISS teamwork and cause the space station itself to fall out of orbit.

A week later, Rogozin retaliated by announcing that Russia would stop supplying or servicing Russian rocket engines used by two US aerospace NASA suppliers, suggesting US astronauts could use “broomsticks” to get into a orbit around the earth.

Around the same time, Russia said it was halting joint ISS research with Germany and forcing the 11-hour cancellation of a British satellite launch from Baikonur.

The Roscosmos chief also said last month that Russia is suspending its cooperation with European launch operations at the European spaceport in French Guiana.

The space station itself was born in part from a foreign policy initiative to improve US-Soviet relations after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cold War hostility that spurred the original US-Soviet space race.

Rogozin’s recent actions have prompted some in the US space industry to reconsider NASA and Roscosmos’ partnership.

Ann Kapusta, executive director of the nonprofit Space Frontier Foundation, told Reuters in a recent statement that the United States must end its ISS partnership with Russia.

Kapusta, a former ISS researcher for NASA, said “toxic behavior” by Rogozin “demonstrates that there is no distance between Roscosmos and Putin’s war machine,” and that Russia can no longer be trusted to cooperate safely in space. .

NASA officials, for their part, have said that, while aware of events on Earth, US and Russian ISS crew members continued to work together professionally and that geopolitical tensions had not infected the space station.

NASA chief Bill Nelson told the US space agency’s 60,000 employees in a “city hall” video on Monday: “NASA continues to work with all of our international partners, including State Space Corporation Roscosmos, for the continued safe operations” of the space station.

This post Russian Cosmonauts Launched on Flight to International Space Station by Reuters

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