Despite the war in Ukraine and Washington's mission to crush Moscow with sanctions, NASA astronauts and Russian cosmonauts will resume flights to the International Space Station (ISS), Insider Paper reports.
"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 in a statement.
NASA said astronaut Frank Rubio would join cosmonauts on a Soyuz rocket to the ISS on September 21 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The announcement comes amid a massive leadership shakeup in Russia's state-owned space corporation, Roscosmos. A short communique published via the Kremlin on Friday said Dmitry Rogozin is out as director general of Roscosmos and will be immediately replaced by former Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Rogozi made threats against the West about Russian participation in the ISS (he even threatened to deorbit the ISS). All threats were hollow but further strained space relations between both countries. It's unknown how Borisov will act toward NASA.
"The station was designed to be interdependent and relies on contributions from each space agency to function. No one agency has the capability to function independent of the others," NASA continued.
On Thursday, NASA announced a Russia-US agreement on seat swap flights to the ISS. "The first woman in Russia's cosmonaut team may embark on her flight aboard the US Crew Dragon spaceship under the seat swap program on September 1," Russian state-run media TASS said.
Space relations between Russia and Western countries have deteriorated since the invasion, though new efforts appear to be underway to fix severed ones and keep a professional arrangement with the Americans to maintain the ISS.