The Soyuz MS 11 rocket, currently the only means of transporting crews to the International Space Station (ISS), was successfully launched on Monday, 3 December, from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan.

It landed at 18:40 (Paris time) after taking off unhindered at 12:30, or 6:30 after the launch as planned. On board the crew of Expedition 58, composed of three astronauts:

David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, Ana McClain of NASA, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos. The three scientists took off for a six-and-a-half-month mission in orbit 400 kilometers above the Earth. The current crew of Sergei Prokopyev, Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñon-Chancellor are due back on December 20th.

This flight was a test for the Russian space industry, half a century after the beginning of the space conquest marked by the historic flight of Yuri Gagarin,

Indeed, on October 11, the rocket carrying the American Nick Hague and the Russian Alexey Ovitchinin had suffered a failure two minutes after takeoff. Added to this failure was another incident, namely the discovery of a leak in August on one of the Soyuz vessels stationed aboard the ISS.

Although Soyuz remains one of the safest space programs in history, doubts have been expressed about the Russian space industry, which has been plagued by failures in recent years. In the United States, which has invested $ 100 billion in 28 years in the Space Station, NASA leaders and politicians are worried about their reliance on a single space transportation system.

Vladimir Vladimir Putin asked his agency in July "to drastically improve the quality and reliability of Russian spacecraft and launchers". Roscosmos is facing rising cost problems, insufficient technology and lack of skilled labor.

The Russian space industry is struggling to replace an aging workforce with young engineers and technicians with unattractive salaries. Added to this is corruption and embezzlement. Since 2014, 140 investigations have been opened following embezzlement around the construction of the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

If Russia had until then had the monopoly of these trips since 2011 and the shutdown of the American Space Shuttle, it should face in 2019 the competition of "space taxis" SpaceX and Boeing.

Paul Emison for DayNewsWorld