Manned Rocket to Launch April 26
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|Fri, 03-28-2003 - 12:10pm|
Friday, March 28, 2003
The first manned space rocket to fly into orbit since the fatal Columbia disaster last month will take off from the Baikonur cosmodrome on April 26, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency said Thursday.
"The date will be April 26 at 18:50 Moscow time," he said. "The crew will be officially named on April 18."
The Russian Soyuz craft will carry an American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut to the 16-nation International Space Station, staffed by a three-strong crew since November.
U.S. station commander Ken Bowersox, flight engineer Donald Pettit and Russian flight engineer Nikolai Budarin were due to return to earth aboard the Atlantis shuttle this month.
But NASA's decision to ground its three remaining shuttles while it investigates the Columbia accident has effectively stranded the three men, leaving them dependent on Russian craft.
American astronaut Edward Lu, 39, and Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko, 41, are expected to man the Soyuz and later the ISS, though they have not formally been named by either NASA or Russian officials.
The two are training at Star City outside Moscow, along with their backup crew.
The Soyuz capsule usually takes up a crew of three, but space officials have decided to cut one crew member in order to send up extra cargo and to save water, fuel and food aboard the ISS.
The Soyuz due to take off from Kazakhstan next month will also replace the station's current escape pod, which has a life expectancy of roughly six months.