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Crew of four, including Russian cosmonaut, launches from US on mission to ISS

The SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off from launch at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on April 7, 2021. After last year's record 31 launches, SpaceX may see more than 52 liftoffs in 2022. (SpaceX/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A Russian cosmonaut and three astronauts launched from the United States on October 5 on a five-month mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

It was the first launch of a cosmonaut from the United States in 20 years and took place despite tensions over the war in Ukraine.

The group of four spacefarers launched from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a SpaceX rocket.

Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina joined Koichi Wakata of the Japanese space agency and NASA astronauts Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, and Navy Captain Josh Cassada. Wakata, who is making his fifth flight, is the only one of the foursome who has traveled to space before.

“Awesome! said Mann as they reached orbit. “That was a smooth ride uphill. You’ve got three rookies who are pretty happy to be floating in space right now.”

They’re due to arrive at the space station on October 6 and won’t return to Earth until March. They will replace a U.S.-Italian crew that arrived in April.

The space agencies recently agreed to swap seats on their flights to the ISS in order to ensure a continuous U.S. and Russian presence aboard the ISS.

Kikina, the fifth Russian woman in space, will replace NASA’s Frank Rubio, who launched to the space station two weeks ago from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket.

Kakina said she was surprised to be selected for the seat swap after encountering “many tests and obstacles” during her decade of training. “But I did it. I’m lucky maybe. I’m strong,” she said.

As for the war in Ukraine, Mann said all four have put politics and personal beliefs aside, “and it’s really cool how the common mission of the space station just instantly unites us.”