Rosaviakosmos /Russian Aviation and Space Agency/ has signed a contract with the European Space Agency /ESA/ concerning the flight to the International Space Station of Spaniard Pedro Duque. In June, a similar document concerning the flight of Dutchman Andre Kuipers will be considered, Rosaviakosmos informed RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
"Each of these ESA astronauts intends to participate in brief expeditions to the international space station /7-10 days/ in the Russian piloted Soyuz TMA spaceship in October 2003 and April 2004," the Russian Aviation and Space Agency reported.
It was previously planned that Duque would become the third member of the short-term expedition, which was scheduled to start on April 26th, 2003 in a Soyuz TMA-2 spaceship. However, because of the crash of the US Columbia shuttle the flight was postponed till autumn, Rosaviakosmos explained.
"Now he and the members of the eighth long-term expedition Alexander Kaleri /Russia/ and Michael Foale /the USA/ will leave for the international space station on October 18th. After a week's stay, he will return to Earth with the seventh expedition - Yuri Malenchenko /Russia/ and Edward Lu /the USA/, which will finish its work at the station.
Every flight of ESA astronauts "as the third crewmember" in a Souyz TMA spaceship gives Russia about 12 million dollars, head of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency Yuri Koptev has told a RIA Novosti correspondent. "This money is used to support the programme of construction of Russian spaceships to fly to the international space station, as after all flights of US space shuttles were interrupted, deliveries of goods and astronauts to the station have been carried out by Russia alone," Koptev stated.