Russian officials decided Monday to let the damaged Mir space station limp along for another month with a gash in its side and only half its usual solar power, rather than let its accident-plagued crew try to mend it.
“It was decided to hand over the repairs to the next crew,” deputy mission director Igor Goncharov said.
The risky repairs, planned for this week, were put off until late August.
Russian officials had suggested over the weekend that the delay was likely.
Cmdr. Vasily Tsibliyev, who recently suffered heart palpitations, and flight engineer Alexander Lazutkin will return to Earth on Aug. 14, two weeks early. Their overlap with the two-man relief team, Anatoly Solovev and Pavel Vinogradov, has been cut from 20 days to seven. French astronaut Leopold Eyharts, who was to arrive with the new crew, will not travel to Mir until next year.
Current Mir crewman Michael Foale, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration physicist, also will be dropped from the new repair team. Foale will sit out his appointed time in space before flying home aboard a NASA space shuttle that is scheduled to dock with Mir on Sept. 20. Despite worries raised in Congress about the safety of the space station, he will be replaced by another U.S. astronaut, Navy Cmdr. Wendy Lawrence.
The mission doctor said Tsibliyev’s heart was back to normal.