The agreement comes despite the European Space Agency earlier this week terminating its relationship with Russia on a mission to put a rover on Mars.
The United States and Russia will renew flights together to the International Space Station, preserving one of the last areas of cooperation amid Western attempts to isolate Moscow over its attacks on Ukraine.
NASA and Roscosmos signed an agreement to allow Russian cosmonauts to fly on US-made spacecraft in exchange for American astronauts being able to ride on Russia’s Soyuz, the space agencies said on Friday.
“To ensure continued safe operations of the International Space Station, protect the lives of astronauts and ensure continuous US presence in space, NASA will resume integrated crews on US crew spacecraft and the Russian Soyuz,” NASA said.
NASA said that astronaut Frank Rubio will fly with two Russian cosmonauts on a Soyuz rocket scheduled to launch on September 21 from Kazakhstan, followed by a second mission by astronaut Loral O’Hara in 2023.
In a first, Russian cosmonauts will join NASA astronauts on SpaceX’s new Crew-5 which will launch in September from Florida with a Japanese astronaut also on the mission.
Another joint mission on the SpaceX Crew-6 will fly out in early 2023, NASA said.
‘Dear friends’ in space
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said the agreement with NASA was in the interests of both countries and “will promote cooperation” on space.
The news came just hours after the chief of the Russian space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, was dismissed by President Vladimir Putin.
Rogozin once quipped that US astronauts should get to the space station on trampolines rather than Russian rockets.
Russia’s Soyuz rockets were the only way to reach the space station until SpaceX, run by the billionaire Elon Musk, debuted a capsule in 2020.
The last NASA astronaut to take a Soyuz to the station was NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei in 2021. He returned to Earth in March this year alongside Russian cosmonauts, also on a Soyuz.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Vande Hei said that the cosmonauts remained his “very dear friends” despite their nations’ tense relationship.
The move comes despite the European Space Agency earlier this week terminating its relationship with Russia on a mission to put a rover on Mars.
The ESA’s decision infuriated Russian space chief Dmitry Rogozin who banned cosmonauts on the ISS from using a European-made robotic arm.
Source: TRTWorld and agencies