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Cosmic irony: Russians and Americans cooperate every day—on the space station

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Vanity Fair, March 2022

The lights have gone out in many parts of Ukraine as Russia’s war ravages the land and its people. But in the darkness, an easily visible, unwavering point of white light will sweep over the heads of Ukrainians and Russians alike for a few minutes most nights, like a cue ball shot across the heavens. If unaware of the light’s source, Ukrainians may fear it is yet another lethal Russian weapon seeking to rain its wrath down on them. But people in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Mariupol—and in Moscow, Washington, D.C., and virtually any other city on Earth for that matter—are catching sight of the International Space Station (ISS), the third brightest object in the sky, not to mention one of the most expensive, technical, and politically complex multinational partnerships ever undertaken.

That partnership is facing its most dire test right now. Inside the ISS, the seven crew members of what is denoted as Expedition 66—four Americans, two Russians, and a German—must ignore the violence and political rupture going on below them and continue to cooperate. They have no choice: Even as they can almost certainly see evidence of the war with their own eyes, they must live and work together. Their lives depend on it.

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