NASA is warning that astronauts may be forced to temporarily abandon the International Space Station (ISS) if a recent space freighter crash prevents Russia from ferrying a fresh crew to the station.
As TG Daily previously reported, a Russian freighter bound for the ISS disintegrated over Siberia after failing to separate from the third stage of its Soyuz-U carrier rocket on August 24th. Subsequently, Moscow grounded all Soyuz rockets until scientists are able to determine the cause of the rocket anomaly.
Unfortunately, Russia's Soyuz is currently the only rocket available to transport astronauts to and from the station.
"We expect that the next manned launch [to the ISS] will take place in late October or early November, not earlier. That is our plan," said Roskosmos' manned spaceflight programme director, Alexei Krasnov, in a statement obtained by RIA-Novosti.
"If for some reason we fail to send up the next crew by the end of November, we will have to study all the available options, including one of leaving the station unmanned."
Meanwhile, NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, confirmed flight controllers could keep an abandoned space station operating indefinitely - if all major systems were functioning within acceptable parameters.
However, Suffredini acknowledged that the risk to the space station would inevitably increase if no one was on board to fix potential malfunctions.
"We're focused on keeping the crew safe. Our next focus is on keeping the ISS manned. Flying safely is much, much more important than anything else I can think about right this instant.
"I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to discuss any political implications if we spend a lot of time on the ground. But you know, we'll just have to deal with them because we're going to do what's safest for the crew and for the space station," he added.