December 10, 1998 – The Russian-European-Slovak crew, which is expected to fly to the Mir space station on February 22, 1999, will probably not be the last mission to the station, while the station’s life in orbit will be extended, the captain of the crew, Colonel Viktor Afanasyev said on Thursday.
“Our 27th mission will be followed by the 28th and 29th, I am sure,” Afanasyev told a press conference. In reply to an Itar-Tass query, he said his flight was initially scheduled for half-a-year, but was then reduced to 99 days. “An official changing in the programme is expected in the near future,” he said. “Of course, we shall have a relief crew,” he noted. “The station must fly until the International Space Station runs at full capacity or gets a permanent crew, “the cosmonaut said.
Deputy head of the Cosmonauts’ training centre Yuri Glazkov also stressed that if subsidized, Mir may remain in space for another several years. “The crews and ground services have brought the station in a very good condition, so there are no problems so far as we are concerned,” he said.
The crew includes French astronaut Jean-Pierre Haignere from the European space agency and Slovak astronaut Ivan Bella. Their back-up men are Salizhan Sharipov, Claudie Andre-Deshays (Haignere’s wife) and Mikhail Fulier.
Afanasyev said it would be the first flight with a simultaneous participation of two foreign astronauts. “I hope we shall have no psychological or technical problems,” he smiled.
The international crew is expected to arrive on Mir on February 24, 1999 and spend several days together with the present crew of Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev. Then Padalka and Avdeyev will get back to Earth, while the new crew will stay on Mir for about three months. That will be the seventh and the last flight of a French astronaut to Mir, but not the last mission, Haignere said.
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