ISS crew enlargement linked to shuttles

MOSCOW, April 18 (UPI) -- The crew of the International Space Station may be enlarged to three members this summer, Russian media reported Monday.

Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, told the ITAR-TASS news agency that a third crewman -- the European Space Agency's Thomas Reiter -- will join U.S. astronaut John Phillips and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev on board the station in July if the U.S. space shuttles resume regular flights.


The ESA hopes to sign a contract on Reiter's long-duration mission, Daniel Sacotte, director of human spaceflight, microgravity and exploration programs for the agency, told journalists at the Russian Mission Control Center Sunday.

Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to be launched between May 15 and June 3 after more than a two-year hiatus following the loss of shuttle Columbia and its seven astronauts on Feb. 1, 2003.

The manned transportation spacecraft Soyuz TMA-6 with Phillips, Krikalev and the ESA's Roberto Vittori on board docked with the ISS on April 16. Krikalev and Phillips will spend six months on the station, replacing NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao and Russian cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, while Vittori is scheduled to return in a week with Chiao and Sharipov.


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