“NASA and Roscosmos Share Healthy Bonds Despite Ukraine Crisis”: Astronaut Before Joint Mission

NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is scheduled to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) in September as part of the Expedition 68 crew. He will depart for the orbital outpost in a Russian Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft from Kazakhstan under the seat exchange agreement between NASA and the Russian space agency Roscosmos. As part of the deal, Rubio will board a Russian Soyuz capsule and in return, NASA will launch a Russian cosmonaut into an American-made spacecraft.

Speaking about his upcoming mission on Sept. 21, Rubio told reporters at a recent press briefing that NASA and Roscosmos have maintained a healthy relationship despite the ongoing Ukraine crisis. “This crew swap truly represents the continued effort of great teams on both sides and amazing people who make this possible,” Rubio said according to Space News. He added that the teams are currently trying to “achieve this mission” with the utmost safety and productivity.

Rubio is currently in the final stage of his spaceflight training at the Star City Cosmonaut Training Center near Moscow and will be accompanied by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin for the six-month mission. During his speech, Rubio said he hoped human spaceflight and exploration would remain “a form of diplomacy and partnership” when there were tensions elsewhere.

Russian Anna Kikina to board US spacecraft under seat-swap deal

NASA will reciprocate Rubio’s flight in the Soyuz capsule by sending Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the ISS in SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft. Notably, Kikina will be part of the Crew-5 mission which is scheduled for October 3, just days after Rubio’s launch. The cosmonaut will be accompanied by two NASA astronauts – Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada – Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Launching into space for the first time, Kikina will also become the first cosmonaut to board a private American-made spacecraft. The Crew-5 team will replace NASA astronauts Kjell Lindgren, Robert Hines, Jessica Watkins and European Samantha Cristoforetti who arrived at the space station on April 28.

Christi C. Elwood