Wed, Mar 31, 2004
Purpose: Saving Money
It's the sort of reasoning we on Earth can certainly understand.
If you want to save money on travel, make fewer trips, right?
That's the line of thinking at Russia's cash-strapped space
agency, where officials Tuesday announced plans to extend
astronauts' stays aboard the International Space Station by six
months -- effectively doubling the tour of duty.
"The Russian side has sent a suggestion to NASA to prolong the
work of the main crew from six months to a year," Sergei Gorbunov,
spokesman for Russia's space agency, said by telephone.
NASA's input on this may be academic at this point, since the
shuttle fleet has remained grounded since February 1st, 2003, when
the Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry. The remaining shuttle's
return to flight has been delayed from this fall until at least
Spring of next year.
In the meantime, Russia's Soyuz program is the only game in town
-- unless, of course, you count the Chinese variant.
"After the loss of the shuttle, Russia lost a part of its
extra-budget funds, therefore we are suggesting this option." said
He also suggested astronauts would benefit from spending longer
on the orbital platform and their health would not be damaged. "The
crew does not have enough time to carry out all their tasks in six
months. That is why the term should be extended. Doctors allow
people to spend this much time in space. It does not affect health
in any way."
So far, there's been no comment from NASA. The longest stay in
space to date is 438 days. The record was set by Valery Polyakov,
during his stay aboard the Mir Space Station in 1994 and 1995.
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