A Soyuz spacecraft with three astronauts on board, one American and two Russians, docked this Wednesday (14) with the International Space Station (ISS) in record time, just three hours after takeoff.
Russian cosmonauts Serguei Ryzhikov and Serguei Kud-Sverchkov and American astronaut Kathleen Rubins took off from the Russian base in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, at 5:45 am GMT (2:45 am Brasília) and arrived three hours later at the ISS, 408 kilometers from Earth.
“Three hours and 3 minutes,” Russian Roskosmos agency director Dmitri Rogozin wrote on Twitter to celebrate the new brand. The ship arrived at the station four minutes ahead of schedule.
The Russian rocket Soyuz MS-17 “docked” at 8h48 GMT (5h48 GMT) with the Space Station, the Russian space agency announced in a statement.
“A new record has been set,” added the agency. With the brand, manned flights to the ISS were cut in half – before they lasted at least six hours.
The trip was made possible by a new guidance system for the Soyuz rockets, which allows the station to approach in just two orbits, against the three needed before.
The system was tested in April 2019 with a Progress spacecraft, responsible for supplying material to the ISS.
– “Incredibly lucky” –
The three Soyuz occupants took additional precautions during the global coronavirus pandemic period: they followed a strict quarantine to avoid taking covid-19 to the ISS.
“In my case, more or less since March,” said Kathleen Rubins during the press conference during the preparations for launching Soyuz. They have also been tested frequently.
The trip is of particular value to the American Rubins, as the ship took off on the day she turns 42.
“We cannot choose our release date or what happens on the season, but I certainly feel incredibly lucky,” said Rubins.
For the American, this is the second space flight. Serguei Kud-Sverchkov, 42, is on his first flight. Serguei Ryzhikov, a military pilot by training, is the most experienced of the trio: he has spent 173 days in space, against 115 for Rubins.
The astronaut and the two cosmonauts join the three current occupants of the ISS: Chris Cassidy (NASA), Anatoli Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner (Roskosmos), whose return to Earth is scheduled for October 22.
The takeoff of the Russian spacecraft bound for the International Space Station was the first since the American SpaceX rocket broke nine years of Russian monopoly on ISS trips on May 30, with a takeoff from the John F. Kennedy Space Center (Florida) .
The ISS remains, however, one of the few examples of cooperation that persists between Russians and Westerners. Astronauts in the two countries underscored the ability of space travel to unite rival nations for a common cause.
Despite the cooperation, the director of Roskosmos announced this week that Russia will not participate in the future station that the United States wants to orbit around the Moon, with an assembly plan starting in 2023.
The station, named Lunar Gateway, “in its current form is very American,” said Rogozin.