ISS crew safe despite supply failure: Russia, US

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Russian mission control and NASA said Wednesday there was no need to evacuate the six-member crew from the International Space Station despite the launch failure of a vessel carrying tonnes of supplies.

"Of course we have to study the situation, but provisionally we can say that it is not so critical that we should talk about the premature return of crew members from the ISS," mission control spokesman Vladimir Solovyov told Interfax.

The Russian space agency Roskosmos added in a separate statement that the accident "will not impact the life support" systems of the ISS crew.

Roskosmos said the unmanned Progress cargo vessel experienced propulsion system problems 5 minutes and 25 seconds after its launch Thursday from the Baikonur space centre in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

Local officials reported said fragments of what appeared to be the Progress craft landed in the Siberian region of Altai, which has borders with China and Mongolia.

Solovyov said the international team on board the ISS had enough oxygen and water along with other supplies to last until the next Russian cargo mission's arrival, which is scheduled for October 28.

NASA echoed Russia's confidence.

"We have a very good backload of food, fuel and other consumables on board the ISS after the STS-135 shuttle mission," NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries told AFP.

The loss will require some changes to the "overall logistic but it should not have an immediate impact on the crew," he added.

"It's premature to discuss the possibility of reducing the size of the next crew. I don't anticipate that."

The next manned mission to the ISS is provisionally scheduled for September 22, although those missions only have enough room to take up the basic supplies.

An industry source told RIA Novosti said the crew -- who besides three Russians include two US astronauts and a spaceman from Japan -- may have to conserve on both food and water because of the accident.

A source said space officials had informed Andrei Borisenko, the Russian captain of the ISS, of the accident and noted that he took the news calmly.

"The cosmonauts received this news with understanding," a Russian official told Interfax.

Another source told RIA Novosti that the failed launch may force Russia to temporarily ground Soyuz rocket missions and therefore delay the next contact with the ISS.

"The cargo vessel accident will probably lead to a suspension of these types of missions until the causes are learned," an unnamed Russian source told RIA Novosti.

"This means that, at the very least, there will be a delay to the next manned ISS mission."

Russia's Roskosmos agency removed all references to upcoming flights from its official website and announced the creation of a task force to look into the accident.

© 2011 AFP

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