Despite the tensions between the two countries, two Russians and one American arrive at the International Space Station.

L’astronaute américaine Loral O’Hara et les cosmonautes russes Oleg Kononenko (en bas) et Nikolai Tchoub, à Baïkonour (Kazakhstan), le 15 septembre 2023.

Tout un symbole. Deux cosmonautes russes et une astronaute américaine sont arrivés vendredi 15 septembre à bord d’une capsule Soyouz à la Station spatiale internationale (ISS), un rare travail de coopération en pleine période de tensions entre Moscou et Washington.

Le cosmonaute russe chevronné Oleg Kononenko et son camarade Nikolai Tchoub, ainsi que l’astronaute de la NASA Loral O’Hara ont quitté comme prévu, en pleine nuit, le cosmodrome russe de Baïkonour, au Kazakhstan, à bord de la fusée Soyouz MS-24. L’équipage est arrivé à l’ISS trois heures plus tard, a annoncé l’agence spatiale russe dans un communiqué.

This launch occurs less than a month after the loss of the Russian lunar probe Luna-25, which crashed on the Moon in August. This failure served as a reminder of the challenges that the Russian space sector has been facing for years, including lack of funding and corruption scandals.

“I cannot reword”

“I cannot reword”me O’Hara, 40 ans, pour qui il s’agit de son premier vol dans l’espace, jeudi, lors d’une conférence de presse à Baïkonour.

“The atmosphere is good, the crew is ready to perform all the tasks entrusted to them,” said 39-year-old Nikolaï Tchoub, who is also on his first flight. He added that traveling in space was “a childhood dream” to which he has dedicated “his entire life.”

The three astronauts will replace the Russians Sergueï Prokopiev and Dmitri Peteline, and the American Frank Rubio, who arrived on board the ISS a year ago. Their mission had been extended due to the damage to their return spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-22, which experienced a spectacular leak in December 2022 while docked at the ISS, attributed by Moscow to the impact of a micrometeorite. The Russian space agency had therefore decided that it could only be used in case of emergency and had chosen to send the MS-23 spacecraft as a replacement.

The space sector is one of the few areas where cooperation between Russia and the United States still exists, despite tensions caused by the conflict in Ukraine. On Thursday, American astronaut Loral O’Hara stated that the ISS is “a symbol of peace and cooperation.” Unlike what happens on Earth, where nations often do not get along, we get along well up there, we understand each other, and we are very mindful of our relationships. We always look out for each other,” added 59-year-old Mr. Kononenko.

Le Monde avec AFP