JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Dec. 7, 2004 -- The space station's two-man crew is eating more than engineers had planned for -- so they will have to cut their calories a bit to stretch their food supply.
NASA's Mission Control began auditing the food supplies of astronaut Leroy Chiao and cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov just after Thanksgiving and were surprised to find they had miscalculated how much two guys in space could eat. Now the hearty eaters will have to consume 30 percent less to extend their food supply until Christmas Day when a Russian supply ship is scheduled to reach the space station with more food. The crew has been living at the station since Oct. 16.
International Space Station rules call for crews to begin evacuation planning if food, water or breathable air supplies fall below a 45-day supply. If supplies then dip below 30 day's worth, the crew is supposed to abandon ship.
The situation is not critical yet because the Russian supply ship, Progress, should reach the hungry crew by Dec. 25. Russian engineers are loading seven extra containers of food into the vehicle to make sure there will be enough grub to keep the pair sustained. It has gotten tougher to keep enough supplies on the space station because it has been two years since a space shuttle has flown to the space station. The only way to get supplies there is with the much smaller Progress supply ships.
If something should delay the Progress from launching to the space station then NASA will have to evacuate the crew. In this scenario, the pair would set off in the Soyuz escape capsule that is always docked at the space station. NASA spokesman Rob Navias says there have never been any problems with Progress and this supply ship should arrive on schedule. However it is standard practice for engineers at the Johnson Space Center to work on an evacuation plan, so they are preparing one just to be safe.
NASA will hold a briefing Thursday afternoon at JSC to discuss the crew's supplies.