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A Russian spacecraft will pick up the new crew members of the space station on April 26

The Soyuz cabin can hold a crew of three, but senior officials decided to cut one crew member to send more supplies and to save water, food and supplies on the space shuttle.

Avi Blizovsky

The crew of the International Space Station that will change in April: from left to right - Nikolai Bodarin, Ken Bowersox and Donald Pettit
The crew of the International Space Station that will change in April: from left to right - Nikolai Bodarin, Ken Bowersox and Donald Pettit

The first manned flight into space since the Columbia disaster will take off from the Russian spaceport in Baikonur, Kazakhstan on April 26. This was stated by the spokesman of the Russian space agency. To coordinate arrival times with the International Space Station, the flight will depart at 18:50 Moscow time (17:50 Israel time). The official decision on this is expected to be made on April 18.

The Russian Soyuz will carry one American astronaut and one Russian cosmonaut to the space station, which is owned by 16 countries and has been manned by a three-person crew since November. The reduction of the crew was intended to ease the Russians, who now alone carry the burden of replacing passengers on the space station that was previously carried out by the shuttle, and freed up the Russian spacecraft to bring a reinforcement crew for a week's stay on the station. Also, the Russian team would replace the Suiz that is at the station and is intended for escape in times of danger once every six months. The refresher flights will now be combined with the crew replacement flights. The Russians, by the way, took advantage of two of these refresher flights to bring space tourists who paid 20 million dollars each.

The station commander, the American Ken Bowersox, the flight engineer Donald Pettit and the Russian flight engineer Nikolai Bodarin were supposed to return to Earth at the beginning of March aboard the shuttle Atlantis, but NASA's decision to ground all three remaining shuttles until the end of the Columbia disaster investigation left the three hanging in the Russian spaceships.

American astronaut Edward Lu (39) and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Melanchenko (41) are expected to man the Soyuz and then the International Space Station, although the names have not yet been officially given by NASA or by officials of the Russian space agency. The two train in the city of stars near Moscow together with their backup men.

The Soyuz cabin can hold a crew of three, but senior officials decided to cut one crew member to send more supplies and to save water, food and supplies on the space shuttle. The three current crew members will return in Suez, which is already on station and has already passed its six-month lifespan.

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