Russian launch from US for first time in 20 years aboard Hawthorne-based SpaceX rocket – Orange County Register

By MARCIA DUNN | The Associated Press

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut launched from the United States on Wednesday, launching alongside NASA and Japanese astronauts to the International Space Station despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.

Their flight — powered by SpaceX from Hawthorne — was delayed by Hurricane Ian, which swept across the state last week.

“I hope that with this launch we will light up the Florida skies a little bit for everyone,” said Japan Space Agency’s Koichi Wakata, who is making his fifth spaceflight.

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA - OCTOBER 05: Crew-5 member Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina departs for Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on October 05, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA's SpaceX Crew-5 is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station later today. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
Crew-5 member Roscosmos cosmonaut Anna Kikina launches to Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on October 5, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station later today. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Joining him on a five-month mission are three newcomers to space: Marine Col. Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to fly into orbit; Navy Captain Josh Cassada and Russia’s only female cosmonaut Anna Kikina.

They are scheduled to arrive on the space station on Thursday, 29 hours after leaving NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, and won’t be back on Earth until March. They are replacing an American-Italian crew that arrived in April.

Russia’s only female cosmonaut Anna Kikina is the Russian Space Agency’s replacement for NASA’s Frank Rubio, who launched to the space station from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket two weeks ago. He flew up with two cosmonauts.

The space agencies agreed over the summer to swap seats on their flights to ensure a continuous US and Russian presence aboard the 260-mile (420-kilometer) high outpost. The swap was approved even as global hostilities mounted over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. The next crew swap will take place in spring.

Just before launch, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the main reason for the seat swap was safety — if an emergency forces a capsule’s crew home, there would still be an American and a Russian on board.

Meanwhile, Russia remains committed to the space station until at least 2024, Russian space official Sergei Krikalev assured reporters this week. Russia wants to build its own in-orbit station later this decade, “but we know it won’t be very quick, so we’ll probably keep flying with NASA until then,” he said.

Beginning with Krikalev in 1994, NASA began flying cosmonauts on its space shuttles, first to Russia’s Mir space station and then to the fledgling space station. The 2003 Columbia reentry disaster put an end to that. But US astronauts continued to hitchhike on Russian rockets for tens of millions of dollars a seat.

Kakina is only the fifth Russian woman to take off from the planet in a rocket. She said she was surprised to have been selected for the seat swap after encountering “many tests and obstacles” during her ten-year training. “But I did it. I may be lucky. I’m strong,” she said.

Mann is a Wailacki member of the Round Valley Indian Tribes of California and picks up her mother’s dream catcher, a small traditional mesh hoop believed to offer protection. Retired NASA astronaut John Herrington of the Chickasaw Nation became the first Native American in space in 2002.

“I’m very proud to represent Native Americans and my heritage,” Mann said before the flight, adding that everyone in her crew has a unique background. “It’s important to celebrate our diversity and also to recognize the importance of working together and uniting the incredible accomplishments we can achieve.”

Referring to the war in Ukraine, Mann said all four put politics and personal beliefs aside, “and it’s really cool how the joint mission of the space station unites us immediately.”

Cassada added, “We have the opportunity to be an example to society of how to work together, live together and explore together.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has now launched eight crews since 2020: six for NASA and two private groups. Boeing, the other taxi service contracted by NASA, is planning its first astronaut flight early next year after delays in fixing software and other problems encountered during test flights.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/05/russian-launches-to-space-from-us-1st-time-in-20-years/ Russian launch from US for first time in 20 years aboard Hawthorne-based SpaceX rocket – Orange County Register

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