In just about the time it might take you to fly from New York City to Miami for a summer holiday, the Soyuz spacecraft used that same amount to reach the International Space Station (ISS) from Earth, Science Alert reports.
A three-person crew, comprising Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov of the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, and NASA’s Kathleen Rubins successfully made it to the ISS aboard a Russian rocket in just over three hours. It was a new dawn in the age of space transportation.
Roscosmos confirmed the successful docking of the Soyuz spacecraft in a tweet. The flight “took a record three hours and three minutes,” Russian newswire RIA Novosti said.
Journey to the ISS usually takes around six hours – a time that is also a massive improvement on the two-day flight that was the norm prior to 2013.
The October 14 flight was also the first time a manned journey was completed in such a short time. It even broke the time it took the fastest missions carrying supplies to the ISS.
This particular mission was of great importance to the Russian Space Agency, having seen the amount of progress that the United States has achieved since NASA brought in the expertise of commercial partners such as SpaceX and Boeing. There are talks that a new space race might just be underway.
Before SpaceX and Boeing came into the picture, Russia had enjoyed a monopoly on crewed missions to the ISS. In fact, NASA paid Roscosmos $90.3 million for Rubins’s seat on this current mission. However, NASA’s dependence on Russia for space transportation has all but come to an end.
The Soyuz spacecraft was launched from Russia-owned Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at about 05:45 GMT on Wednesday.
NASA’s Kate Rubins, whose 42nd birthday happened to occur on the day of the launch date, might be the last American to have a paid seat aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.
“This is gonna be kind of a birthday that I’ll never be able to beat Rubins said before the launch. “It’s pretty funny. It’s incredible to launch to space on your birthday.”
This record-breaking crewed flight is coming just weeks before the 20th anniversary of the arrival of the station’s first crew on November 2, 2000. Since then, the station has witnesses rotating crews from different countries and even tourists on a space expedition.
“It’s just incredible that we’ve had a space station with continuous human presence for 20 years,” Rubins said. “It’s one of the most incredible engineering achievements, I think, that humanity has done. And the fact that we’ve done it as an international partnership and collaboration, I think that’s absolutely the intangible benefit of all of this.”
When fears about a possible coronavirus outbreak on the International Space Station were raised, Rubins dismissed those fears, saying that very strict precautions were taken, including tighter quarantine and mask-wearing before launching.