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Several more cosmonauts set to quit Russian space team — source

MOSCOW, April 24. /TASS/. Several experienced cosmonauts may soon quit Russia’s cosmonaut team both of their own free will and for health reasons, a source in the rocket and space industry told TASS on Monday.

"Apart from Gennady Padalka who has tendered his resignation, another experienced cosmonaut with a record of three space flights, Sergei Volkov, has recently quit the cosmonaut team. He also left of his own free will," the source said.

Also, it is not ruled out that two more cosmonauts will quit the team for health reasons while another one may be excluded from training for this reason," the source added.

If this happens, the team will comprise 27 people, of whom 13 have no experience of space flights, the source said.

TASS does not have official confirmation of this information.

Earlier, cosmonaut Gennady Padalka who is a record-holder for the most time spent in outer space announced his decision to quit the cosmonaut team. He motivated his decision by the absence of prospects for performing his sixth space flight to set a record of 1,000-day stay in outer space. His current record is 878 days spent in outer space.

Cosmonaut team is a living organism

Cosmonaut Training Center Head Pilot-Cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov believes that changes in the cosmonaut team, like in any living organism, occurred and will occur all the time.

"Sooner or later, cosmonauts have to quit the team. Someone has to do this due to a change in his life priorities while someone else has to quit for health reasons. No matter how deplorable this may be, this is quite a natural process," he told TASS.

According to Lonchakov, some cosmonauts who have left the team continue working at the Cosmonaut Training Center to share their experience with young members. They include Heads of Cosmonaut Training Center Departments Yuri Onufriyenko and Valery Korzun, Head of the Youth Educational Center Salizhan Sharipov, advisers to the Center’s head Sergei Zaletin and Vasily Tsibliyev, Center Deputy Chief Yuri Malanchenko and Cosmonaut Team Deputy Commander Mikhail Tyurin.

"The departure of each cosmonaut from the team is a complex decision not only for the cosmonaut but also for the Cosmonaut Training Center and for manned cosmonautics. There was a period when the team was fully staffed and there was a period when the team ‘was not renewed’ for a long time. Now the Cosmonaut Training Center has approached the frontier when many cosmonauts are quitting flight positions and most of them have to do this for health reasons," Lonchakov said.

Work will start soon to form crews from a new generation of cosmonauts, he added.

"Time has come to give way to a younger generation of cosmonauts and the executives of Roscosmos state space corporation fully support us in this regard," the Cosmonaut Training Center head said.

This year, Roscosmos and the Cosmonaut Training Center have announced a contest to select cosmonauts or the cosmonaut team. A total of six-eight cosmonauts will be selected in 2017, he said.

"We’re preparing to admit new candidates and expect them to learn from the experience of those cosmonauts who are working at the Center," Lonchakov said.