from the job-cuts-in-space! dept.
NASA has confirmed that the Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos is mulling whether or not to continue staffing the International Space Station with its usual complement of astronauts.
Last week the Russian newspaper Izvestia quoted Sergei Krikalev, director of manned programs at Roscosmos, saying that the agency had approached NASA about reducing its standard ISS crew count from three to two. Russia has had three astronauts on rotation in the ISS since 2010, but apparently that will be changing.
Krikalev said that delays in building the Russian Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), the nodal unit (a structural join), and the scientific and power module – let alone lofting them into orbit – meant there was no need for three local astronauts on station. Cutting one would save money and allow Russia to auction off the place to space tourists.
"We'll look at it as we do with all these kind of things – we'll trade it against whatever risk that might put into the program, first and foremost the risk to our crew onboard, and the station itself. From there, we start looking at the options and see what we can do as a partnership to either accommodate it or help them realize why that's a bad thing."
[...] To make life more difficult, the Russians can no longer bank on getting cash from NASA for astronaut delivery past 2017. SpaceX should be ready to start sending crew to the ISS by then and Boeing is planning flights by 2018, so the $80m per launch Roscosmos was getting will no longer be coming in.
NASA may sell/lease parts of the International Space Station in the next decade:
NASA has signalled its intention to offload the International Space Station (ISS) some time in the 2020s. News of the sale appeared in the video below, at about the 14:15 mark [YouTube] when Bill Hill, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, ponders the ISS' role in future missions.
"Ultimately our desire is to hand the space station to either a commercial entity or some other commercial capability so that research can continue in low-Earth orbit. We figure that will be around the mid-20s."
Hill and the other speakers in the video explain how NASA is preparing for a crewed Mars mission and outline how the agency is now well and truly in the market for ideas about how to get it done.