The ISS, a Symbol of Friendship and Cooperation

The ISS, a Symbol of Friendship and Cooperation

On 29 March, by entrusting the command of the International Space Station to the American Thomas Marshburn, the Russian Anton Shkaplerov stressed that it was “a symbol of friendship, cooperation and the future of space exploration.”

At the moment, the International Space Station (ISS) is in a crew rotation phase, moving from Expedition 66 to 67. On 18 March the changeover of the occupants of the orbital complex started with the arrival of three Russians on Soyuz MS-21. On 29 March another traditional stage took place: the change in command of the ISS.

Anton Shkaplerov Emphasises Friendship

This ceremony always takes place in the same way. The Acting Commander gives a short speech then hands over to the successor the ISS’s “key”. This, of course, has no real function, other than a symbolic one. It picks up, as Anton Shkaplerov indicated, the principle of a key for a Soyuz hatch or a Russian spacecraft, since the first module of the ISS, Zarya, was produced in Russia.
Below, the video of the ceremony.

Until this ceremony on 29 March, the Acting Commander of the ISS was the Russian Anton Shkaplerov. He summarized the main events which took place up there while he was in post, noting the arrival of several Russian and American ships, declaring that he was “very proud of this excellent crew.” Humorously he recalled a few emergency situations (described in passing as not very dangerous) like when “satellites tried to kill us,” a remark which made his colleagues laugh a lot! Probably a reference to the orbital pollution and the test of a Russian anti-satellite weapon on 15 November which generated debris requiring the crew to take refuge momentarily as a precaution in the Soyuz and Crew Dragon capsules.
The passage of the ISS from Russian to American command takes on a special aspect in view of the geopolitical situation, particularly the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the sanctions imposed by several countries (including the United States) with knock-on effects on the space sector. However, the station code of conduct prohibits astronauts from taking a position, and more specifically making any statement which can be interpreted as a criticism of the nations or the five partner agencies (NASA for the USA, Roscosmos for Russia, ESA for Europe, JAXA for Japan and CSA for Canada).
While respecting the regulations, Anton Shkaplerov did, however, mention the fact that people have problems on Earth and that “in orbit we are a single crew,” stressing that ” the ISS is a symbol of friendship, cooperation and the future of space exploration.” Then turning to his colleagues, he told them “you are my space brothers and (looking more particularly at Kayla Barron, the only woman on board) my space sister.” A clear message in the current context.
After receiving the key, Thomas Marshburn saluted Shkaplerov as a “marvellous commander” and explained that it was an “honour and a privilege” for him to continue this “international partnership in space flight.” Marshburn then wished Anton Shkaplerov, Pyotr Dubrov and his compatriot Mark Vande Hei a safe return to Earth. The trio indeed return on 30 March and will land on the plains of Kazakhstan aboard Soyuz MS-19.