Roscosmos Replaces Russian Crew of Next Soyuz Mission

Roscosmos Replaces Russian Crew of Next Soyuz Mission

Russia’s space state corporation Roscosmos announced today that the two cosmonauts in training for the next Soyuz mission to the International Space Station (ISS) will be replaced by their backups.  They and NASA’s Chris Cassidy are scheduled to launch to ISS on April 9.  The swap reportedly is due to an injury suffered by one of the cosmonauts.

Roscosmos tweeted the news today and posted this statement on its website [translated by Google].

“The Russian members of the main crew of the Soyuz MS-16 manned spacecraft, Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin, will be replaced by backups for medical reasons.

“The positions of the commander and flight engineer of the Soyuz MS-16 spacecraft will now be taken by the cosmonauts of Roscosmos Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner [sic]. The changes will affect only the Russian part of the crew, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy continues to prepare for the flight in accordance with the established plan.

“The launch of the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle with the Soyuz MS-16 manned spacecraft and the members of the long-term expedition ISS-63 is scheduled for April 9 this year from launch pad No. 31 of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.”

The two original Russian crew members for Soyuz MS-16, Nikolai Tikhonov and Andrei Babkin, are both rookies. Their replacements are Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Wagner.  Ivanishin has been on two ISS missions already: from November 2011-April 2012 and July-October 2016.  This will be Wagner’s first flight.

According to Russian media reports, one of the original crew members, apparently Tikhonov, suffered an injury that makes him unfit for duty.  On Twitter, a self described Russian space enthusiast, Katya Pavlushchenko, tweeted that a Russian newspaper, Vedomosty, reported that Tikhonov suffered an eye injury after walking into a branch.

Crews train together and typically if one member is unable to fly, the entire crew is replaced.  That is the whole reason for backup crews.   In this case, the third member of the crew is NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy.  His backup is Stephen Bowen, but indications are that Cassidy will fly with Ivanishin and Vagner.

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