A Russian official misspoke last weekend when he said the number of crew members on board the International Space Station probably wouldn’t increase next year as planned. On Saturday, Roscosmos head Anatoly Perminov said, “I doubt that the ISS crew will be increased to six people from next year because the final decision has not been taken yet. All countries participating in the ISS program have to decide it.” But today NASA spokesman Kelly Humphries said Perminov made a mistake. “There are no impediments for going forward with expanding the crew size from three to six,” Humphries told Universe Today. The issue was also discussed during a press conference with the space station crew, including the newly arrived crew of three that launched on a Soyuz rocket on Sunday: U.S. astronaut Mike Fincke, Russian cosmonaut Yury Lonchakov and U.S. space tourist Richard Garriott.
NASA and the international partners working together to construct the ISS want to increase the crew size in order to expand the capability to conduct research. But in order to boost the crew size, the station must be able to recycle condensation, cooling water and even urine to provide enough potable water for the astronauts, their experiments and the station’s U.S. oxygen generator. Additional astronaut sleep stations, a second toilet (and repairing the one already on board) and a second galley also must be delivered, installed and checked out.
Fincke said the main mission during his Expedition 18 is to get the space station, currently sized for three people, up and running and ready to go for six people. “It’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s the next step in getting the space station fully operational. We’ve got the right team for it,” he said. Fincke will take over as commander of the station on Oct. 22.