Russian Cosmonaut and Native American Woman Depart for Space Station

For the first time in 20 years, a Russian cosmonaut took off from the United States on Wednesday for the International Space Station, along with NASA astronauts and a Japanese, despite tensions caused by the war in Ukraine.

The flight on a rocket from the aerospace company SpaceX was delayed by the passage of Hurricane Ian, which devastated the state last week.

“I hope this flight will light up the Florida sky a little bit for everyone,” said the Japanese Space Agency’s Koichi Wakata, who is making his fifth spaceflight.

Joining him on the mission were U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Nicole Mann, the first Native American woman to leave Earth, as well as Navy Captain Josh Cassada and Russia’s only female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina. .

“Wonderful!” Mann exclaimed as he entered orbit. “It was a smooth ascent. We are three rookies happy to be floating in space now.”

Its arrival at the International Space Station is scheduled for Thursday, after a 29-hour flight from the Kennedy Space Center, and the return to Earth in March. They will replace a crew of Americans and Italians that arrived in April.

Kikina, of the Russian Space Agency, travels in exchange with Frank Rubio, of NASA, who left for the station from Kazakhstan two weeks ago aboard a Soyuz rocket together with two cosmonauts.

Space agencies agreed months ago to swap seats on their flights to ensure a continued presence of Russians and Americans at the orbital base, which flies 260 miles from Earth.

Bartering was authorized in late February, despite global hostility over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The next crew exchange is scheduled for the middle of next year.

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