Sergey Korsakov is the top candidate to become the first cosmonaut to travel to the International Space Station aboard the Crew Dragon spacecraft, made by Elon Musk’s private company SpaceX, the Russian training center chief said.
Russia and the US are planning to perform “mixed flights” to orbit, Pavel Vlasov, the head of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, told Komsomolskaya Pravda radio on Sunday. “It means that a Roscosmos cosmonaut will travel on Crew Dragon, and a NASA astronaut, on our ship.”
“Sergey [Korsakov] is one of the first contenders to fly on Crew Dragon. He has already completed the necessary procedures at NASA so that space gear could be made for him.”
This will be the first spaceflight for Korsakov, 36, who has been training for the mission since 2012.
On Tuesday, it was announced that NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei would travel to the ISS on Russia’s Soyuz MS-18 spacecraft on April 9. Talks to include an American on what was expected to be the first all-Russian crew in 20 years started around six months ago, Vlasov said.
In exchange, NASA agreed to provide a Russian cosmonaut with a seat on a US commercial spacecraft in 2023. It’s only fair that it would go to Korsakov, who gave up his spot on the Soyuz MS-18 to Vande Hei.
Russians and Americans routinely used each other’s ships to get to the ISS before the termination of NASA’s Space Shuttle program in 2011. After that, the Americans had to rely on Russian ships for manned flights for almost a decade.
Following the success of the first SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the ISS last May, NASA considered reducing its cooperation with Roscosmos. But it turned out that the US space agency is unable to maintain a permanent presence of astronauts on the station without assistance from Russia.
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin said that NASA opted to “continue the tradition of international crews” because American’s spaceflight technology remains “unstable.”
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