The International Space Station is about to have one fewer Russian on board.
According to new reports from Russian state media, the Russian Federation will downsize the contingent of cosmonauts on the ISS from three to two. Russia is adopting a more fiscally conservative approach regarding its international space collaborations, and apparently that means bringing one spacefarer home.
Russia is usually responsible for providing three of the six crew members aboard the International Space Station, with NASA and its various partners selecting the other three. As Ars Technica reports, the whole situation is a bit light on details, but NASA did release a statement on Monday saying that any questions should be directed to the press office of Roscosmos (the state space corporation that runs national space operations) and made assurances that the level of research pursued by all parties involved is “at an all-time high.”
We’ve known for a while that Russia has been getting cagey about its future involvement with ISS missions — the nation already announced it would discontinue sending U.S. astronauts to the station by 2018.
NASA and Roscosmos have maintained an amiable partnership since 2009, when the two entities settled on the idea of a joint team of six ISS crew members. Since NASA retired its Space Shuttle program five years ago, American astronauts have hitchhiked to the station aboard Russian spacecraft. As the U.S. looks increasingly to private spaceflight companies like SpaceX and it’s somewhat trailing competitor, Blue Origin) to get tomorrow’s astronauts and supplies to the ISS, we may need to re-evaluate how we’ll manage to crew future missions.