On Friday, three new crew members made their way to the International Space Station. The three Russians’ rocket was launched from Russia’s Baykonur space base in Kazakhstan.
After a few hours of flying, they should arrive at their home more than 400 kilometres above the Earth for the next few months.
The three cosmonauts are Oleg Artemev (51), Denis Matveev (38) and Sergei Korsakov (37). The youngest two are going to space for the first time. They join four Americans, two Russians and a German who are now on the ISS.
It is the first manned launch since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war has fueled tensions between Russia and the West. In the past, space travel escaped such conflicts, but now the future of the ISS is also uncertain. As a result, projects that have been set up together are on the back burner. For example, Europe, at least for now, is pulling the plug on an unmanned explorer that should go to Mars later this year.
The head of Russia’s space program, Dmitry Rogozin, is a staunch ally of President Vladimir Putin. When the West imposed sanctions on Russia, he threatened that Russia could wreck the ISS. He also threatened to leave the American astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who is soon to return to Earth.
In addition, Rogozin had the life-size letters Z and V applied to the launch facility in Baykonur, which Russia also used during the war.