The seven astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday June 28 said goodbye to the American cargo ship Cygnus which had refueled them in February. With its golden solar panels in the shape of a corolla, Cygnus has detached from the ISS to descend back to Earth and burn up, with the waste it brings back, in the upper layers of the atmosphere.
A banal end to a mission that was not completely completed, because, on June 25, this spacecraft for the first time carried out a maneuver which consisted in activating its engines for five minutes to ascend the ISS by approximately 150 meters. To understand the scope of this modest test, we must remember that, at the time of the first international sanctions aimed at Moscow after its attack on Ukraine, the boss of the Russian space agency had threatened to leave the ISS – maintained at 400 kilometers of altitude by regular thrusts of the Russian ships – falling back to Earth. The Americans have therefore just shown that they could do without the Russians to keep the station in its orbit.