Despite tensions between the two countries, two Russians and an American arrive on the International Space Station

Quite a symbol

Despite tensions between the two countries, two Russians and an American arrive on the International Space Station

Quite a symbol. Two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut arrived on Friday September 15 aboard a Soyuz capsule at the International Space Station (ISS), a rare piece of cooperation in the midst of a period of tensions between Moscow and Washington.

Veteran Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and his comrade Nikolai Tchoub, as well as NASA astronaut Loral O'Hara, left the Russian Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as planned aboard the Soyuz MS- rocket in the middle of the night. 24. The crew arrived at the ISS three hours later, the Russian space agency announced in a press release.

This launch comes less than a month after the loss of the Russian lunar probe Luna-25, which crashed on the Moon in August. A failure which recalled the difficulties that the Russian space sector has faced for years, between lack of financing and corruption scandals.

“We get along well up there.”

“It’s a very special moment and a very nice feeling to be part of something that is bigger than us and that has brought together so many people. I am enthusiastic about this mission,” said Ms. O’Hara, 40, for whom this is her first space flight, on Thursday at a press conference in Baikonur.

“The atmosphere is good, the crew is ready to accomplish all the tasks entrusted to them,” said Nikolaï Tchoub, aged 39, who is also making his first flight. He added that traveling to space was “a childhood dream” to which he dedicated “his whole life.”

The three astronauts will take over from the Russians Sergei Prokopiev and Dmitri Peteline and the American Frank Rubio, who arrived aboard the ISS a year ago. Their mission had been extended due to the damage to their return ship, the Soyuz MS-22, which had suffered a spectacular leak in December 2022 while docked with the ISS, due according to Moscow to the impact of a micrometeorite. The Russian space agency therefore decided that it could only be used in an emergency, and chose to send the MS-23 spacecraft as a replacement.

The space sector is one of the rare areas where cooperation between Russia and the United States remains, in a context of high tensions due to the conflict in Ukraine. The American Loral O’Hara said Thursday that the ISS was “a symbol of peace and cooperation”. “Unlike what happens on Earth (…), where nations often do not get along, we get along well up there, we understand each other and we are very sensitive to our relationships. We always look out for each other,” added Mr. Kononenko, aged 59.