Russia applauds SpaceX launch but calls Trump’s reaction ‘hysteria’

A handout video-grabbed still image made available by NASA on 31 May 2020 shows SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft with NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley onboard on NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 mission approaching to dock to the International Space Station (ISS), 31 May 2020. [Handout photo/EPA/EFE]

Russia’s space agency criticised Donald Trump’s “hysteria” about the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from US soil in nine years, but also said on Sunday (31 May) it was pleased there was now another way to travel into space.

SpaceX, the private rocket company of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched two Americans into orbit on Saturday en route to the International Space Station (ISS), a landmark mission that ended Russia’s monopoly on flights there.

Trump, who observed the launch, said the United States had regained its place as the world’s leader in space, that US astronauts would soon land on Mars, and that Washington would soon have “the greatest weapons ever imagined in history.”

NASA had had to rely on Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, to get to the ISS since its final space shuttle flight in 2011, and Trump hailed what he said was the end of being at the mercy of foreign nations.

The US success will potentially deprive Roscosmos, which has suffered corruption scandals and a number of malfunctions, of the lucrative fees it charged to take US astronauts to the ISS.

“The hysteria raised after the successful launch of the Crew Dragon spacecraft is hard to understand,” Vladimir Ustimenko, spokesman for Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter after citing Trump’s statement.

“What has happened should have happened long ago. Now it’s not only the Russians flying to the ISS, but also the Americans. Well that’s wonderful!”

SpaceX’s capsule docked with the ISS on Sunday.

Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin congratulated NASA chief Jim Bridenstine for the success.

“Bravo! I know how anxious you were for this major event to become a success,” Rogozin wrote on Twitter.

Rogozin said he had appreciated a barbed joke by Musk referencing his own 2014 barb that the United States should try using a trampoline to get to the ISS. Musk told a post-launch news conference “the trampoline is working”.

Ustimenko said Russia planned to test two new rockets this year and to resume its lunar programme next year.

“It will be interesting,” said Ustimenko.

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