Russia’s only active female cosmonaut, Anna Kikina, said Friday she was ready for her upcoming flight to the International Space Station aboard Space X’s Crew Dragon.
The flight, scheduled for October 3, is set to go ahead despite soaring tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Kikina, a 37-year-old engineer, will be only the fifth professional woman cosmonaut from Russia or the Soviet Union to fly to space.
She will also be the first Russian to travel aboard a Crew Dragon spacecraft, as part of a cross-flights deal between NASA and Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
“Yes, of course I am ready for the flight. I will leave for America on September 8 for the final training session, pre-flight activities and procedures,” Kikina told a press conference broadcast by Roscosmos.
Speaking of her role as the first Russian to fly with a Space X mission, she said “this is a great responsibility”.
“But I can also say that any flight is a big responsibility for a cosmonaut. So personally, I do not make special distinctions,” she added.
Asked about the attitudes of US colleagues towards her, Kikina said that “I feel loved… I am very happy that I am part of this crew”.
Kikina will be part of Space X’s Crew-5 mission to the ISS on October 3, joined by Japan’s Koichi Wakata and NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada.
Kikina said she will be taking with her a symbol of her Siberian hometown Novosibirsk — a hand-made toy of a young boy with orange hair called “Gorodovichok”.
“He’s already waiting for me onboard,” she said.
The last Russian woman to fly to space was Elena Serova, who spent 167 days aboard the ISS from September 2014 to March 2015.
Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space when she travelled into orbit on June 16, 1963.
Svetlana Savitskaya was the second woman in space, and the first woman to perform a spacewalk in July 1984.
In October, Russia also sent to space an actress, Yulia Peresild, who spent 12 days on the ISS shooting scenes for a movie.
By comparison, more than 50 American women have travelled to space.
NASA astronaut Frank Rubio is set to launch to the ISS on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on September 21, joined by cosmonauts Sergey Prokopyev and Dmitry Petelin.
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