Russia has notified its space station partners of a proposal to reduce its contingent of cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) from three to two.
Though Russia has committed to maintaining the orbiting laboratory through 2024, their national space agency, Roscosmos, has been suffering from leaner budgets as of late, though it’s unclear if the proposal to cut their on-station crew is budget-related or a shift in priorities. However, coupled with the reduction in the number of ISS resupply missions needed from the Russians, along with the assumed resumption of crewed launches from the United States in the near future negating the need for Russia to ferry US and international astronauts – both of which are significant sources of income – it’s not a stretch to see a fiscal strain being the impetus behind this proposal.
NASA is aware of the proposal, as are the other ISS partners, and will weigh it as it relates to crew safety and other operational considerations. NASA’s Kenneth Todd – International Space Station Operations Integration Manager – confirms that Russia is considering the staff draw-down, and even though it is merely a proposal at this point, the international group will work to ascertain if there’s anything they can do to assist their Russian counterparts work through their current difficulties.