MOSCOW: Russia on Friday said the next manned launch taking astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) would take place two days later than previously announced, on November 14.
"The next manned launch is planned for November 14," the head of the Russian space agency, Mr Vladimir Popovkin said at the flight control centre, cited by the Interfax news agency. The launch, which had been set for November 12, will be watched closely after a cargo ship taking supplies to the ISS failed to reach orbit and crashed to Earth in August.
Russia responded by freezing launches while it investigated the crash, which it later blamed on a block in the fuel supply of the Soyuz carrier rocket that was supposed to blast the ship into orbit.
Another cargo ship will set off for the ISS on November 30, Mr Popovkin said.
Since the closure of the United States shuttle programme, Russia is the only country able to send manned missions into space.
The three astronauts returned safely to Earth from the International Space Station on Friday, while their replacements found out how much longer they'll have to wait before their own space trip. AFP
NASA astronaut Ron Garan and Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev rode a Russian Soyuz spacecraft down to the steppes of Kazakhstan just before 10 a.m. local time (midnight ET), finishing up their five-month space mission.
The only glitch experienced during the descent was a period of spotty air-to-ground communications that built up some suspense about the crew's condition. Communication was eventually established between the crew and an Antonov fixed-winged aircraft circling the landing site.
The returning spacefliers were all smiles as they were carried out of the capsule and given medical checkups. Three other astronauts — NASA's Mike Fossum, Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa and Russia's Sergei Volkov — stayed behind on the station.