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Soyuz-2 launches three astronauts to ISS

Russia today successfully used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch three astronauts to ISS.

Because this flight is occurring three days before the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first human flight in space, the Russians gave the Soyuz capsule his name to honor him and the event. The spacecraft docked with ISS only two orbits later.

The crew also included an American, Mark Vande Hei, who is flying as part of the new barter agreement with Russia, whereby Americans fly in Soyuz in exchange for Russians flying in American commercial capsule. This was the first time NASA paid nothing for a flight on Soyuz since the shuttle retired a decade ago.

The return to Earth of Vande Hei and his fellow crew member Pyotr Dubrov will be on the next Soyuz capsule to launch in October, MS-19, in order to accommodate a short visit by a Russian movie director and actress.

Roscosmos will launch Soyuz MS-19 no earlier than October 5 with Commander Anton Shkaplerov and two civilian spaceflight participants. Russian film director Klim Shipenko and a Russian actress, who is yet to be named, will film a movie called “The Challenge” and spend approximately a week aboard the ISS before returning to Earth aboard Soyuz MS-18 with Novitsky.

With this commercial manned flight there will be two such flights in the fall, the Dragon Inspiration4 flight that will not dock with ISS and this Russian one. Both will then be followed by the Axiom commercial tourist flight on a Dragon capsule early in ’22. Expect such commercial manned flights to become somewhat routine in the coming years.

UPDATE: China also launched an Earth observation satellite yesterday, using its Long March 4B rocket
The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

10 SpaceX
8 China
6 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 14 to 8 in the national rankings.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

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