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Report: NASA making station evacuation plans
Posted: Wed, Nov 27, 2002, 2:01 PM ET (1901 GMT)
ISS illustration (NASA) NASA is preparing plans to operate the International Space Station should Russian funding shortfalls force the evacuation of its long-duration crew, MSNBC reported Tuesday. According to the report by veteran space analyst James Oberg, NASA is studying how the station could be maintained if left unoccupied by long-duration crews for up to a year, starting as early as mid-2003. The plan would allow station assembly work to continue by visiting shuttle crews, although those crews would be required to carry out additional maintenance tasks on the station; shuttle crews would have to eat food stored on the station during their stays since the shuttles would be loaded down with additional equipment. More than 80 percent of the scientific experiments currently planned for the station would also be suspended because no long-term crews would be on board to supervise the studies. The plans were prompted by concerns that Russia may not be able to afford building enough Soyuz and Progress spacecraft to continue supporting the station. Russian budget problems were reportedly exacerbated when plans to fly pop star Lance Bass on the recent Soyuz taxi flight fell through: Bass's $20-million flight would have provided substantial funding to the Russian space program. The Soyuz currently under construction for next May's taxi flight is missing one-third of its components, even though it should now be completed and undergoing testing according to its schedule.
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