NASA astronaut sends Russian cosmonauts into space

The spacecraft lifted off from Kazakhstan’s famous Baikonur Cosmodrome, carrying NASA astronaut Frank Rubio and Russian cosmonauts Dmitri Petelin and Sergey Prokopyev. It is expected to be a six-month stay on the International Space Station. The rise happened at 9:54 am.

This will be Rubio’s first trip to space, where he will serve as a flight engineer. A trained family physician, he also has experience as a flight surgeon, which means he has the expertise to deal with medical problems that may arise during travel.

Rubio, a native of Florida, joined NASA in 2017. Before joining the astronaut corps, he graduated from the US Military Academy and earned his MD from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. He has over 600 hours of combat experience in countries such as Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Rubio’s hometown is Miami, according to NASA, although he was born in California and his mother lives in El Salvador.

When Rubio and his fellow Russians arrive at the space station, they will join astronauts from the United States, Russia and Europe. The space station, which has had people on board continuously since 2000, maintains a rotating crew base to ensure that the orbiting laboratory is continuously staffed with enough astronauts to maintain the space station’s hardware and maintain a long space-based record. experiments work.

The fact that Rubio is traveling in space in a Russian Soyuz capsule is notable.

The history of getting and taking humans to the International Space Station began with Russia and the United States each having their own rockets to carry citizens to and from the ISS in the early 20th century. which became a symbol of post-Cold War cooperation at the end of the 20th century and in the early 2000s. But after 2011, when NASA retired the space shuttle program, Russian Soyuz capsules were the only option for US astronauts. NASA has paid $90 million for seats on a Soyuz spacecraft.

In 2020, that changed. NASA, a few years earlier, prepared its own plan for privatized companies to take over the task of transporting astronauts to and from the space station. And Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been doing just that ever since, starting with the Demo-2 mission in 2020 and most recently preparing for the Crew-5 mission. SpaceX’s launches have become routine for NASA, which has allowed it to monitor how the ISS crew is faring.
Tensions between the United States and Russia, however, reached a fever pitch after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

But after sharing rides in Russian Soyuz vehicles before SpaceX entered the scene, one of the big questions that arose was whether the US and Russia would continue to put their astronauts side by side on ISS missions.

That was answered in July when NASA and its Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, confirmed they would continue to share seats on rocket rides to the space station. Russian cosmonauts are expected to fly in SpaceX capsules, in addition to NASA astronauts sharing seats aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
The United States and Russia are the main operators of the ISS, and both countries control its day-to-day operations. Importantly, the Russian-controlled segment includes the propulsion necessary to keep the ISS afloat in Earth orbit. And NASA has repeatedly said one of its goals is to ensure continued cooperation between the US and Russia in space.

Rubio, earlier than many US astronauts, traveled to Russia to train with Russian cosmonauts before this mission.

“It’s been a privilege to be here,” he told CNN’s Kristen Fisher at an August news conference. “We have a pretty strong NASA team here to support the mission … I think every one of us would say we feel safe.”

CNN’s Kristen Fisher contributed to this story.