Three astronauts — including American astronaut Loral O’Hara — began their ascent into space on Friday after a successful launch.
NASA joined with Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, to launch the three astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).
Cosmonauts Nikolai Chub and Oleg Kononenko along with O’Hara assumed their voyage in a Russian spacecraft, the Soyuz MS-24, from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Over three hours, the spacecraft will move through two orbits before reaching the ISS.
The scientists will participate in separate missions aboard the ISS: O’Hara will stay onboard for six months, and the two cosmonauts are to complete a year-long mission. They will relieve crew members of the ISS Expedition 70, who were scheduled to return to Earth six months ago, Space.com reported. The delay was a result of a leak onboard the ISS — forcing O’Hara to wait half a year before taking her first flight into space.
The latest expedition is taking place as tensions between the U.S. and Russia have reached dizzying heights. The ISS was launched in 1998 through the collaboration of the U.S. and 10 other countries, including Russia. The space station would see U.S.-Russia diplomatic relations improve following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Recently, however, it was the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 that soured relations with Washington.
NASA chief Bill Nelson said the U.S. would continue to work with Russia on the ISS, despite condemning the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine. “We are completely at odds with President [Vladimir] Putin’s aggression,” Nelson said, according to Reuters, adding that the relationship would continue until the ISS is decommissioned. It will begin to de-orbit in January 2031, and you can read more about it from Semafor here.