As preparations for a flying space-explorer on a forthcoming Soyuz flight are finalized, Roscosmos and NASA leaders talk

As the agency completes an accord with its Russian counterpart, it is becoming highly probable that a NASA astronomer will fly on the Russian Soyuz flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in April. Roscosmos stated in a declaration on February 25 that its director general, Dmitry Rogozin, did speak with Steve Jurczyk, NASA Acting Administrator, that day. Rogozin shared his congratulations on the NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover’s landing the previous week, according to Roscosmos, and addressed the upcoming deployment of the Russia’s Arktika-M satellite to track Arctic conditions.

“Mutual information with the level of engagement between Roscosmos as well as the United States space agency, such as the International Space Station (ISS) program,” which emerged to include Soyuz flights, was also noted in the statement. According to the readout, the parties have discussed a plan to keep Russian and American personnel on the ISS indefinitely. NASA reported on February 9 that it was preparing to secure a seat on the Soyuz MS-18, the upcoming Soyuz mission to the International Space Station, which is expected to deploy on April 9. The space agency stated it would get the seat via an interchange of “in-kind services” instead of a direct buy a structure that is thought to entail a third party, the commercial spaceflight firm Axiom Space.

The announcement was made in conjunction with the filing of the “sources pursued” procurement filing, which is expected to locate any alternate plans before the deal is finalized. The closing date for filing a response was February 19. Officials from NASA have remained silent about their attempts to secure a Soyuz seat, noting the continuing procurement process. During a February 24 presentation about a set of forthcoming spacewalks at the station, Kenny Todd, the NASA’s deputy manager in charge of the ISS program, stated, “That’s an active acquisition right now, but I’m just not in a place where we can discuss about it.”

Todd refused to say who NASA is contemplating for the Soyuz seat, assuming it is received. However, a press release from Roscosmos on February 24 that addressed Russian cosmonaut preparation for the forthcoming mission seemed to verify the astronaut’s identity. Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Oleg Novitsky were seen practicing in a simulator in a single shot. The Soyuz MS-18 mission update, which included their names as well as “Vandei Hei,” an apparent reference to the NASA space explorer Mark Vande Hei, was noticeable on their space suits.

Provided that he was the substitute to Kate Rubins on the former Soyuz flight to the station last October, together with Novitsky and Dubrov, he has also been tipped as the most probable explorer to run the mission. Vande Hei was also pictured working alongside Russian cosmonauts allocated to the primary and replacement crews in recent days.

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