U.S. astronaut joins Russian cosmonauts in International Space Station launch despite ongoing tensions

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) confirmed on Wednesday that an American astronaut joined two Russian cosmonauts on a launch to the International Space Station (ISS), amidst ongoing tensions. 

In a press release, NASA said that American astronaut Frank Rubio boarded the Soyuz MS-22 rocket together with Russian cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin for a six-month-long mission aboard the ISS.

“We had a spectacular view of the Soyuz launch! Sergey, Dmitry, and Frank will come knocking on our door in just a couple of hours… looking forward to welcoming them to their new home!” wrote NASA astronaut Samantha Cristoforreti on Twitter. 

According to NASA, the Soyuz capsule launched from its firing stand at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 6:54 p.m local time on Wednesday. 

Rubio is the first astronaut to partake in a new deal between NASA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, to restart flying people on the Soyuz capsule and start transporting cosmonauts aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft.

The mission was accomplished despite highly tense relations between the US and Russia, with the latter previously announcing its plan to stop sending Russian cosmonauts to the ISS in 2024.

NASA said that Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin will conduct science and research in a variety of fields, including technology development, Earth science, biology, and human study during their stay at the ISS.

Rubio, Prokopyev, and Petelin’s arrival at the ISS brought the orbital facility’s total population to ten. 

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