Russia mulls semi-unmanned missions as substitute for ISS

The Russian Federal Space Agency may in future wrap up its manned space exploration programs in favor of unmanned stations that can also be operated by cosmonauts if needed. The idea was floated after a string of Russian space launches failed.

The possible long-term shift in Russia’s space program was announced on Wednesday at a press conference at the Roscosmos Space Agency. Its head, Vitaly Davidov, said partial electronic control may replace a continuous human presence on the space stations. 

“We’ve got accustomed to spiral development of our space program. Now we don’t exclude we may look at returning to a previous way of exploring space – with stations attended by manned mission only from time to time instead of an ISS-style continuous mission”, Davidov said.     

Concerns about the future of Russian and international space exploration have been fueled by a chain of recent crashes and failures of Russian satellites and carriers. The crash of an unmanned Progress cargo spacecraft in eastern Russia became the third space launch accident in a single week. Russia has already adjusted the supply schedule of the ISS mission and altered its plans for Soyuz rocket launches.

With Russia the only country currently able to launch manned missions into orbit, a shift to unmanned space exploration is likely to influence all future space programs around the world.

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