A Russian crew takes off for the ISS against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine

Three cosmonauts left for the International Space Station  ( ISS ) amid tensions between Russia and the rest of the cooperating countries on the ship.


Three Russian cosmonauts blasted off on a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station ( ISS ) on Friday , amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Western countries over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The crew – made up of its commander Oleg Artemiev and Denis Matveyev and Sergei Korsakov – took off at 3:55 p.m. GMT from a base in Kazakhstan and will fly three hours to the International Space Station (ISS ), where they will be received by a team of two Russians, four Americans and one German.

Until recently, space cooperation between Russia and Western countries was one of the few areas that had not suffered too much from the sanctions decreed against Moscow after the 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

However, tensions had begun to rise, especially after Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed nationalist Dmitry Rogozin as head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos in 2018.

The latter regularly shows support for what Russia calls “a special military operation” in Ukraine.

“Ours! For the first time in many years, it’s a completely Russian crew,” he congratulated himself on Twitter hours before launch.

Recently, he assured that Western sanctions introduced against Moscow by Ukraine could cause the fall of the ISS.

According to him, the operation of Russian ships supplying the ISS will be affected by the sanctions, which will affect the Russian segment of the station.

Consequently, this could cause “‘splashdown’ or ‘landing’ of the ISS weighing 500 tons,” he warned on March 12.

The thrusters of the Russian spacecraft docked at the station are used to correct the orbit of the space structure.

This procedure is done ten times a year to keep it at the right altitude, or to avoid space debris in its path.

Americans alone do not have this capability, Joel Montalbano, station program manager for NASA, confirmed Monday.

“The Space Station was designed on the principle of interdependence … it is not a process where one group can separate from another,” he added.

“Currently, there is no indication that our Russian partners want to do things differently. Therefore, we plan to continue operations as we do today,” he said.

rejected medal

Rogozin also had a virtual falling out with billionaire Elon Musk, founder of the space company SpaceX, who challenged Vladimir Putin on Monday by offering him a “man-to-man fight” on Twitter with Ukraine as a bet.

” Elon, get out of the bathroom so we can talk a bit ,” Rogozin tweeted, referring to a message from the American tycoon in which he said he writes at least 50% of his tweets on his “porcelain throne.”

Aboard the ISS, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts avoided talking about the conflict that has already claimed thousands of lives and caused one of the biggest refugee crises in Europe since World War II.

Astronaut Mark Vande Hei became the subject of a Russian prank: Roscosmos published a video saying that the American could stay on the ISS instead of returning to Earth aboard a Soyuz rocket on March 30.

Scott Kelly, a NASA astronaut whose record for consecutive days in space was broken by Mark Vande Hei this week, responded to the prank by refusing a medal awarded to him by the Russian government.

In the latest clash in space cooperation, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced Thursday that it was suspending the Russian-European mission ExoMars and that it is seeking alternatives for launching four other missions due to the offensive in Ukraine.

Dmitri Rogozin described this fact as “bitter” and assured that Russia will be able to carry out this mission alone in “a few years”. (AFP)