More than three months after the invasion of Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the ISS’s other participants have made it clear that they want to keep the collaboratively operated station flying above Earth-bound tensions.
However, one of the most serious questions left unanswered is whether the method by which astronauts and cosmonauts access the space station will vary. Before the commencement of hostilities, NASA and Russia had planned to begin “seat swaps” this fall, with a cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, flying for the first time on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon vehicle.
Kikina is set to launch in September as part of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann’s “Crew 5” mission. In exchange, NASA astronaut Frank Rubio will be given a ride on the Soyuz MS-22 mission, led by Sergei Prokopyev, according to Ars Technica.
However, ISS Program Manager Joel Montalbano said there will be a lengthy procedure between now and then to get them there.
“Roscosmos needs to get agreement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Montalbano said, “and then they go to their Prime Minister. After that, the agreement comes to the US State Department for approval.”
However, a top NASA official confirmed that no formal word had been given on whether the exchange would occur. Diplomats in Moscow and Washington, DC will make the ultimate decision in the coming weeks.
“It’s a process,” said Joel Montalbano, the Houston-based program manager of ISS.
“Roscosmos needs to get agreement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then they go to their Prime Minister. After that, the agreement comes to the US State Department for approval.”
Montalbano stated that he is eager for the seat swap because it would help to strengthen the collaboration, which has been weakened due to the conflict in Ukraine. “I’m pressing.” “Because it’s happened before with similar vehicles, it’s the right thing to do. But we’ll have to see,” he said.
For reasons other than diplomacy, a seat swap would be favourable. However, the risks have increased due to the tensions in Ukraine. So, it looks that the answer is almost certainly a maybe for the time being. So, let’s wait and watch!