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Mon, Apr 18, 2005

ISS May Soon Be Fully Crewed Again

Return Of The Shuttle Could Mean Return Of Three-Member Crew

Since the Columbia shuttle tragedy more than two years ago, the US and Russia have pared the crew of the International Space Station down from its normal three to a housekeeping staff of only two. But with the shuttles' vaunted Return to Flight scheduled for next month, the ISS will again be staffed by three crew members, according to Russian space officials.

In fact, the crew would be expanded as early as July, according to Roskosmos, the Russian space agency. A source inside the agency told ITAR-Tass that ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter will join U.S. astronaut John Phillips and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev on board the station in July.

There's a caveat, however. He'll join the crew IF the shuttles resume regular flights by then. ESA Human Spaceflight Director Daniel Sacotte told journalists at ISS Mission Control in Russia that he hopes to sign a contract for Reiter's mission sometime soon.

Discovery is slated to put those wheels in motion when it launches sometime between May 15th and June 3rd.

FMI: www.spaceflight.nasa.gov

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