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Mon, Feb 07, 2005

Shuttle Emergency Plan Draws Skepticism From ISS Cosmonaut

Sergei Krikalev Worried About Risks To Station

Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev has some issues.

The man who will command the next crew aboard the International Space Station is worried that NASA's emergency plan for saving the crew aboard a crippled shuttle.

It's a plan that calls for the shuttle in distress to make its way to the ISS, where the crew will eventually be rescued by another shuttle flying an emergency mission, will endanger the station itself.

"We need to prepare a backup plan for this backup scenario," said Krikalev, quoted by Reuters.

Specifically, he's concerned about the extra burden an unscheduled shuttle crew would place on the station's supplies of food, water and air.

"It's going to be difficult. The station cannot stay in this configuration for a long time," he said.

How long is a question only NASA can answer. When Discovery makes the space agency's return to flight, more than two years after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated over the skies of Texas and Louisiana, NASA has agreed to put Atlantis on the pad as an emergency rescue vehicle. But even space agency executives are concerned about the prospect of sending up a second shuttle without valid information about the problems aboard the first.

"If the situation which requires people to stay (aboard the station) happened, it will be a very difficult decision to send another shuttle to try to rescue them," Krikalev said.

So far, there's been no reaction to the cosmonaut's comments from NASA. Krikalev spoke during a news conference at the Johnson Space Center.

FMI: www.nasa.gov

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