April 27, 2005

German Selected to Head to Space Station

MOSCOW (AP) -- A German will become the first European Space Agency astronaut to spend a full six-month stint on the international space station, the Russian Space Agency said Wednesday.

Thomas Reiter, 46, will participate in Expedition 11 in July and complete his mission to the orbiting space station when Expedition 12 is on board, the agency said in statement.

Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian Space Agency, signed a contract with ESA making Reiter part of the main crew. He will work both on research programs and maintain the station with other crew members.

The station had been limited to two full-time residents since the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts on board. The disaster prompted NASA to immediately suspend shuttle flights, but the agency hopes to resume them next month.

Russia's cash-strapped space program has worked closely with the ESA, carrying ESA astronauts on research missions to the orbiting station.

Earlier this month, ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori, an Italian, spent eight days on the orbiting lab. He returned to Earth with American Leroy Chiao and Russian Salizhan Sharipov, who were on the space station since October.


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