Two Russians, American reach space station

Henry

Two Russian astronauts and one from the US reached the International Space Station (IRS) on Friday. The space flight comes amid conflict between the two countries over the war in Ukraine.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Nikolai Chub and Nasa’s Loral O’Hara lifted off aboard the Soyuz MS-24 spacecraft from the Baikonur space station in Kazakhstan earlier in the day.

The Russian space agency said the crew reached the IRS three hours later.

The astronauts join three more Russians, two Americans, a Japanese astronaut and a representative of the European Space Agency.

This trip comes a month after Russia’s first lunar mission in almost 50 years failed.

The IRS is a place where cooperation between the US and Russia is a rare phenomenon. The two countries’ ties broke after Moscow launched a war against Ukraine last year.

However, Kononenko said before the flight in response to the tension between the two countries that “unlike on earth”, astronauts take care of each other when they are in space.

“We hear and understand each other there (at the IRS) and we are very sensitive to the relationships,” he said.

“We always take care of each other.”

IRS ‘brings people together’

O’Hara praised the IRS’s “legacy,” saying it is known for bringing countries together.

“I’m excited to get on board and see the crew members waiting for us,” she said before the trip.

Kononenko (59) and Chub (39) will spend a year at the IRS, while O’Hara (40) will only be there for six months. This is both O’Hara and Chub’s first mission to the IRS.

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, wants to strengthen his country’s space cooperation with China after its ties with the West crumbled.

On Wednesday, Putin met with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un, at Russia’s new Vostochny space station in the east of the country. The two discussed the possibility of sending a North Korean citizen into space.

Last month, Russia’s Luna-25 module crashed on the moon’s surface after an incident during pre-landing manoeuvres.

The Luna-25 mission was intended to be Russia’s return to independent lunar exploration in the face of financial problems and corruption scandals, and its growing isolation from the West.

Moscow last landed a spacecraft on the moon in 1976, before moving away from lunar exploration in favor of missions to Venus and building the Mir space station.