Russian crash delays next space mission until Nov 12

September 13, 2011 20:57

MOSCOW - Russia said on Tuesday it has postponed the next manned mission to the International Space Station until Nov. 12, more than a month later than initially planned over safety concerns following the crash of an unmanned cargo flight last month.

Three astronauts were forced to remain in space for an extra week and partners in the $100-billion station eyed leaving it unmanned for the first time in a decade after the Russian rocket failure on Aug. 24 sent the Progress cargo craft raining back to Earth in fiery bits.

Half of the current station crew -- NASA's Ron Garan and cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyayev and Andrey Borisenko -- will land on the Kazakh steppes early on Friday, leaving a skeleton three person mission in orbit until their replacements arrive.

An investigation into the crash of Russia's Soyuz rocket -- a model nearly identical to that used for manned space flights -- found a production fault that prevented fuel from reaching the gas generator caused the engine to fail in the upper-stages.

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