The American space agency NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011. In order to ensure there was no break in the continuity of its research activities on the International Space Station, the Americans joined hands with the Russians. Since then, the Soyuz became the mode of transport to the space lab. It was a costly affair and NASA had no other option until Elon Musk arrived on the scene with his SpaceX. The latest launch of an American and two Russians would bring to an end the dependency on Soyuz.

Daily Mail UK says the launch of Soyuz MS-17 on Wednesday was the end of an era.

The Soyuz rocket blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Its destination was the International Space Station ISS. Onboard were cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, along with NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins. It completed the journey of 250 miles in slightly more than three hours. The ISS program began 20 years ago and the space lab has been hosting specialists from other countries to work on various aspects of space flight. It has been a continuous exercise of sharing information between scientists. However, with the emergence of an alternative all-American option, NASA need not depend any longer on the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos.

Soyuz will no longer carry NASA astronauts

It is a parting of ways for the American space agency NASA and the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos. Next year, Russia will fly all-Russian crews on Soyuz to the ISS. It will be for the first time since ISS began operations two decades back. Daily Mail UK adds that NASA will use SpaceX Dragon Crew spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.

It seems NASA could accept Russian cosmonauts on the Dragon at a future date. A spokesperson of Roscosmos has told a media outlet that there were no definite plans for Russians joining American spacecraft. An official of NASA said such a situation would depend on different factors. In December 2018, three members of Expedition 58 took off for the International Space Station in a Soyuz rocket.

US-Russia bonding symbolized by Soyuz

The United States and Russia might hold divergent views on many global issues but when it comes to space-related activities, they bond very well. The proof is the cooperation between them onboard the ISS because here they work for a common cause. Experiments on the ISS cover a wide variety of subjects like growing vegetables and the outcome is shared by all. These served the interests of all member countries and benefited space research, especially when everyone's sights were on alien soils and colonization of planets. Those onboard ISS undertook spacewalks to carry out repairs on the space lab. That way they gained valuable experience of moving in space.

NASA utilized the ride-sharing option on Soyuz until Elon Musk entered the scene with his SpaceX. He set the stage for NASA to dissociate itself from Soyuz which is about to happen. In August 2019, the Russian mission stumbled as the Soyuz rocket failed to dock at the International Space Station.

NASA woman astronaut last American on the Soyuz

According to CBS News, NASA astronaut and former virus hunter Kathleen Rubins is the last American to travel to the ISS on a Soyuz. The first crew of the space lab arrived on November 2, 2000, and ever since then, it has been continuously staffed by rotating crews from not just America and Russia but also from Japan, Canada, and a few European countries.

There was also a handful of space tourists. Initially, NASA had its own space shuttle but retired it in 2011. Subsequently, it entered into a seat-sharing agreement with Roscosmos and had to rely on Soyuz, Russia's reliable three-seater. The American space agency now has its SpaceX Dragon Crew and it wants to keep the Soyuz as an option in case of an emergency.