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International Space Station Will Have Fewer Crew in 2017

Nov 18, 2016 04:10 AM EST

Will the International Space Station (ISS) function normally even with fewer people on board? The world is about to find out because in 2017 there will be a smaller crew number aboard the space station.

The downsizing will start in March next year. After the transport of Expedition 50 astronauts by the Soyuz rocket, the next trip to the ISS will only transport two astronauts at a time. Typically, one trip brings three astronauts to and from the space station.

The decrease in crew number in response to Russia's intent to lessen the number of Russian cosmonauts inside the ISS, according to The Verge. There is a pattern to which the Soyuz rocket crew transport follows. Usually, one trip will carry one NASA astronaut and two Russians on board. And then, the second batch will carry one Russian cosmonaut, one NASA astronaut and another astronaut from NASA and Roscosmos partners including the European Space Agency (ESA) of the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). This means, most of the time, the average crew number aboard the floating space station is six.

But based on Russia's decision, in one of the two transport cycles, Roscosmos will send only one cosmonaut instead of two. This means, there will only be an average of five crew aboard the ISS, it could even mean that during crew rotation, the ISS may be left under the care of only two astronauts unless the partnership will work out a way to fix that so there will always a three-person team aboard the space lab.

In turn, for the March crew transport, only two men will be launched to space instead of three. They are Roscosmos cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, according to a report.

Reports say the reduced number of Russian cosmonauts is a move to cut cost while increasing work efficacy for Russia. But this doesn't mean that the ISS will be understaffed. Apparently, there is the chance of the slot being sold to another agency and NASA might be eyeing the extra seat to the ISS.

NASA has not commented on the rumors but looking at the progress of deep space explorations lately, it wouldn't be a surprise if NASA or any of its partners expressed its interest with the now vacant seat to the International Space Station.


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