Although a seat barter deal between Roscosmos as well as NASA is still being negotiated, the head of Roscosmos stated on December 8 that the institution has chosen the very first cosmonaut to fly on the SpaceX commercial crew flight to the (ISS) International Space Station. Roscosmos director general Dmitry Rogozin tweeted on December 8 that Anna Kikina, a cosmonaut, will visit ISS in the fall of the year 2022 “as part of the group of an American commercial spacecraft.” In return, a NASA astronaut would join the crew of a Soyuz trip to the station, which would launch around the same time.

Kikina is now the sole woman in Russian cosmonaut crew. She was chosen in the year 2012 but is yet to go in space, despite statements from Rogozin as well as other Russian officials that she will fly in 2022’s fall. NASA astronauts Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann, as well as Koichi Wakata, a JAXA astronaut, are now assigned to Crew-5 Crew Dragon flight. Roscosmos simply tweeted a quote from Rogozin’s statement, with neither Roscosmos nor Rogozin providing any other information about the flight.

Rogozin’s remark, on the other hand, implied that NASA and Roscosmos had reached an agreement to exchange seats on Soyuz as well as commercial crew missions, resulting in what NASA refers to as “mixed crews.” Should the Soyuz or even commercial crew vehicles remain grounded for a lengthy period, this technique ensures that at least one NASA astronaut and one Roscosmos cosmonaut will be on the station at all times.

Despite Rogozin’s comments, a NASA official indicated the agencies were still negotiating on a seat barter arrangement as of late December 8. “As anticipated, NASA and Roscosmos are completing the terms of an agreement under which we would frequently transport humans and cosmonauts to the ISS on each other’s spacecraft,” NASA spokesperson Josh Finch told SpaceNews. “At the same time, we’ll be putting together the essential training for integrated crew operations.  We look forward to sustained international cooperation on the International Space Station.”

The Crew-5 mission will launch in the fall of 2022, according to Finch. “In the future, we will disclose more information on crew assignments,” he stated.

The efforts to negotiate a seat barter deal come at a time when geopolitical tensions between the US and Russia are at an all-time high, as Russia deploys armed forces near Ukraine’s borders. In recent days, US officials have cautioned that Russia may be planning an onslaught on Ukraine next year.

The impact of any military action on US-Russian cooperation on the ISS is still unknown. Given the reciprocal reliance the two nations have on one other for ISS operations, Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea and foray into eastern Ukraine had little impact on such collaboration.

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