Short-term visiting expeditions to the International Space Station (ISS) have been cancelled at least for six months in connection with the Columbia shuttle tragedy.
RIA Novosti received this information in the Cosmonauts Training Centre (TsPK) named after Yuri Gagarin. It is situated in Star City outside Moscow. The TsPK recalled that such 8-10-day expeditions to the ISS were carried out with the aim of replacing the Russian piloted Soyuz security spaceship, whose resource has been calculated for six months.
However, in the current situation, when the US shuttles' expeditions will be cancelled for at least six months, Rosaviakosmos and NASA (USA) agreed, after a consultation with the European Space Agency, that the Soyuz piloted spaceships would be used only for the change of the station's permanent crews. Thus, "Russia will be responsible for the delivery of long-term expeditions of cosmonauts to the station and their return to Earth," the TsPK stated.
It also reported that the remaining three US shuttles out of five (the Columbia and Challenger shuttles crashed with 14 astronauts on board) will undergo thorough technical check and control for flights safety.
The 10-day flight of Russian cosmonaut Gennady Padalka and Spanish astronaut Pedro Duque scheduled for April 28 will be postponed till autumn in connection with the cancelled short-term visiting expeditions. Padalka will possibly be included in the next ISS crew.
As far as the Spanish astronaut is concerned, he is now staying at the TsPK. Possibly, he will be included in a crew of a short-term visiting expedition to the ISS as soon as their flights are resumed.
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