Following the failed launch of a Russian resupply rocket, NASA and its space agency partners decided on Tuesday to delay three astronauts’ return from the International Space Station, according to officials.
NASA’s Terry Virts, the Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and the European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti were scheduled to arrive back on Earth this week, but will now depart from the space station sometime in June, according to NASA. The three arrived on the space station on Nov. 24, 2014, as a part of Expedition 43, according to ESA.
Their replacements — the NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren, the Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and Kimiya Yui of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency — will also have their launch postponed from late May to late July, according to NASA. They will join Scott Kelly of NASA and two Russians, Mikhail Kornienjo and Gennady Padalka, who are already on board, as part of Expedition 44.
The flight plan reshuffling comes after Russian space officials conducted an initial investigation into the loss of control of the unmanned Progress 59 cargo ship on April 28. The craft orbited in low-earth orbit for more than a week before plunging into the Earth’s atmosphere and disintegrating.
The delays should pose little problem for the stranded astronauts, said a NASA spokeswoman, Stephanie Schierholz. “We keep plenty of supplies on the space station so we can have the flexibility to do something like this,” she said in an interview.
The next Russian cargo launch, Progress 60, will be moved from August to early July, she said, and a SpaceX resupply mission is planned for June 19. Both will deliver several tons of supplies and food to the space station.