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ISS partners agree to increase crew size
Posted: Fri, Dec 6, 2002, 2:51 PM ET (1951 GMT)
ISS illustration (NASA) The five space agencies involved with the International Space Station have agreed to work on ways of expanding the size of the permanent crew of the station later this decade. The heads of the agencies, meeting in Tokyo this week, issued a joint communiqué Friday announcing their intent to study an "option path" for increasing the size of the station's crew as well as other ways to maximize station usage. The partners are expected to select a revised ISS configuration during a mid-2003 meeting in Moscow, with final approval coming at another joint meeting next December in Washington. The revised configuration would be put into place no earlier than 2006. According to some reports, Russia would be willing to build an additional habitation module for the station, provided the other nations paid for its construction. Russia would provide additional Soyuz spacecraft to serve as lifeboats for the station crew, with those spacecraft eventually being supplements and replaced by NASA's Orbital Space Plane. In related news, Russian officials told RIA Novosti they had no plans to stop production of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft despite funding problems that have delayed construction of the latest vehicles. Published reports last month said that NASA was making contingency plans to evacuate the station in mid-2003 because Russia had fallen behind in the construction of the spacecraft.
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