ISS could be temporarily abandoned: NASA

Added by on August 29, 2011

The International Space Station as seen orbiting over the Caspian Sea, as seen by Space Shuttle Discovery after undocking

Russia announced on Monday, plans to delay its next manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) by at least one month following the crash of an unmanned cargo spacecraft five days ago.

“We expect the next manned launch will take place in late October or early November – not earlier,” said Russia’s manned space flight program director, Alexi Krasnov.

There are currently six crew members aboard the ISS, three of which were scheduled to return on September 8, but their trip has been delayed until September 16 on one of two Soyuz spacecraft currently docked at the ISS.

The Russian official stated that any delay in sending the next crew at the end of November could result in having to leave the ISS unmanned, instead operating it from the ground.

“Assuming no significant anomaly we can operate the ISS indefinitely without a crew on board,” said NASA ISS manager Michael Suffredini.

Officials are reportedly concerned about carrying out further manned missions because the Soyuz-FG spacecraft has the same motor as the one that crashed just says ago. The Progress cargo ship that carries the Soyuz spacecraft has operated reliably since its first Soyuz mission in 1978; last week’s was the first major incident and blemishes an otherwise flawless record. Russia became the world’s only nation capable of taking crews to the ISS after the US Space Shuttle program ended in July.

Russian and US officials believe that the problem may have involved a faulty fuel pump yet Russian space officials want to carry out two unmanned Soyuz flights by DEcember to ensure that experts had narrowed down the cause of last week’s problem.

Both Russian and US officials said that the crew onboard the ISS has enough supplies to last at least through November.