A crew of three successfully reached the International Space Station on Wednesday aboard a Russian rocket after the fastest voyage from Earth in just over three hours.
The mission of the Soyuz spacecraft, carrying two Russian astronauts and a NASA astronaut, has been of great importance to Russia’s Roscosmos space agency, as the SpaceX program restarts US spaceflight crews and ignites new space-racing talks. both sides.
Roscosmos said that “a new record has been set for flights to the International Space Station – the total time from launch to the docking of the MS-17 Union was three hours and three minutes.”
Roscosmos has been tasked with transporting American astronauts to the ISS since the space shuttle retired in 201
Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov of Roscosmos and Kathleen Rubins of NASA launched Russia-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 0545 GMT on Wednesday.
Travel to the ISS usually takes about six hours – a time that was a significant improvement on the two-day flights that prevailed before 2013.
The crew trip on Wednesday even beat the fastest time for missions that simply carried supplies to the station.
Only the deployed Progress cargo spacecraft has previously used this profile, which requires only two orbits before docking.
The launch is located between two SpaceX missions – the first space flights to the ISS under the auspices of NASA since 2011.
Before May 30, when American astronauts Robert Benken and Doug Hurley arrived on the ISS with the kind assistance of rocket cars, tycoon Elon Musk, Russia and Baikonur enjoyed a lucrative monopoly on ISS crew missions.
But their spacecraft Dragon Endeavor docked successfully with the ISS just about nineteen hours after reaching orbit.
The NASA duo returned safely on August 2 and a new launch of SpaceX, this time awaiting a full-length half-year mission to the space station, is expected next month.
The appearance of private players SpaceX and Boeing – part of NASA’s commercial crew program – has sparked talks of a new “space race” between a number of countries.
But men and women flying to the space station ignore competition talk and instead focus on the ability of space travel to bring rivals together for a common cause.
Speaking at a press conference before Tuesday’s launch, Rubins did not directly mention the SpaceX flight when asked how she felt on board during a new era in space exploration.
“We can’t choose our launch date or what will happen at the station, but I certainly feel incredibly happy to be at the station when … these events happen,” the American astronaut said.
Strict precautions have been taken, including tighter quarantine and wearing masks before the launch, due to the coronavirus pandemic, but astronauts and space officials have dismissed any concerns about the risk of an ISS infection.
“We have a very strict quarantine, almost from March, according to my perception,” said Rubins, a microbiologist who studied the deadly Ebola virus before beginning his astronaut training.
Too oriented to the United States
Ryzhikov, a 46-year-old former military pilot, has spent 173 days in space compared to Rubins’ 115, while 37-year-old Kud-Sverchkov is flying for the first time.
On the eve of the launch, Rizhikov expressed sadness over the ongoing fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh and said he hoped the ISS example would 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.
Rogozin said Monday that he did not plan for Moscow to participate “on a large scale” in the NASA-led orbital lunar station known as The Gateway.
The proposed new station “is too US-oriented,” Rogozin said.
In recent years, Russia’s space program has undergone a number of twists and turns, most notably the failure of the Soyuz rocket in 2018 just minutes after the explosion – the first such incident in the history of space travel since the Soviet Union. The two astronauts on board were not injured.
© Agence France-Presse