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WASHINGTON, August 8. /TASS/. International Space Station (ISS) participants have announced the crew members for mission to the orbiting laboratory in 2017, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) said on Friday.
This will be the first space flight for four astronauts from the crew - Russian cosmonaut Nikolay Tikhonov, US astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Jack Fischer and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet.
Tikhonov and Vande Hei will fly to ISS aboard the Soyuz spacecraft together with experienced Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkin in March 2017 to join Pesquet, US astronaut Peggy Whitson and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy. Two months after that, Pesquet, Whitson and Novitskiy, who will start their mission in November 2016, will return to the Earth, to be replaced by another experienced Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikin, ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli and US astronaut Jack Fischer.
"The Expedition 51 and 52 crews will continue important research that advances NASA's journey to Mars while making discoveries that can benefit all of humanity," NASA said. "With adequate funding and technical progress on NASA's Commercial Crew Program, astronauts Vande Hei and Fischer are expected to be at the station during the first test flights of the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, targeted for 2017."
In the future, NASA plans to use Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to send its astronauts to space. Over the last years, US delivered its astronauts to space using Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft are planned to be completed by 2017, but NASA fears that it may be postponed due to insufficient financing. US Congress refuses to allocate funding for these purposes in 2016. NASA announced earlier this week the extension of its contract with Russian space agency Roscosmos until 2018. The contract envisages using Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft for delivering US astronauts to space.