Moscow returns two Russian cosmonauts and an American cosmonaut to Earth

A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut left the International Space Station on Wednesday and was scheduled to land in Kazakhstan in the afternoon, in a rare example of cooperation amid a crisis over Ukraine.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos said the Soyuz MS-19 capsule carrying Russians Anton Chkaplerov and Peter Dubrov and American Mark Vandy separated from the International Space Station at 07:21 GMT as scheduled.

The landing should take place at 11:28 GMT in southeast Kazakhstan, according to the same source.

The trip comes in the context of heightened tensions over Ukraine between Russia and Western countries, led by the United States, which have raised questions about many projects in space cooperation.

At the beginning of March, Roscosmos posted a video in which it was jokingly said that Mark Vandy He could stay on the International Space Station instead of returning with a Soyuz spacecraft. Faced with the anxiety of the Americans, the then Russian agency had to make sure that the cosmonaut would indeed be on the flight.

Mark Vande Hei holds the record for consecutive days spent in space by an American astronaut with 355 days.

In this context of tensions, Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin, who doubles up on outings of nationalism on social networks, confirmed in mid-March that the operation of Russian ships supplying the International Space Station would be disrupted by Western sanctions against Moscow in connection with its invasion. Ukraine.

According to him, this could cause a “trench or descent” of the International Space Station.

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Space cooperation between Russia and Western countries has been one of the few areas that has not suffered much from the tensions that have escalated since the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula by Moscow.

But in recent weeks, many cooperation projects have borne the brunt of the crisis across Ukraine.

Thus the European Space Agency (ESA) announced in mid-March that it was suspending the Russian-European ExoMars mission and searching for alternatives to launching four more missions due to the attack in Ukraine.

For its part, Moscow halted the launch of the OneWeb satellite, forcing its British operator to turn to the American company, SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk.

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