Six astronauts may need to temporarily abandon and delay the launch of the International Space Station (ISS) should last week's launch in Russia prevent the crew from flying there this fall.
The launch, which had been scheduled for Sept. 22 as the first to fly in this post-shuttle era, will happen in late October at the earliest, officials say.
Although, investigators said they want to determine the cause of last week's crash before launching further flights.
We have plenty of options, NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini, explained to reporters Monday. We'll focus on crew safety as we always do.
BBC News reports that the unmanned Russian Progress M-12M cargo ship was carrying three tons of supplies for the astronauts on the ISS, whose cost has been estimated at $100 billion.
In order for Russia's Soyuz spacecraft to continue with a full staff of six for as long as possible, the one American and two Russians out of those six astronauts who were due to return to Earth on Sept. 8 will remain on board at least an extra week until Sept. 16.
This comes just weeks after NASA's final space shuttle flight.
Abandoning the space station would be inconvenient for the world's five space agencies that have had astronauts working on the project since 2000, and the goal was to keep it going until 2020.
But, there may still be a chance to continue the space station project.
Perhaps in the future, we will not need a constant manned presence in the lower Earth orbit, Roskosmos deputy director Vitaly Davydov told reporters in Moscow.
Suffredini told reporters flight controllers could keep a deserted space station operating indefinitely, as long as all major systems are working properly. The risk to the station goes up, however, if no one is on board to fix equipment breakdowns.
The six astronauts from three countries presently are living on the orbiting complex.
Three are due to leave next month, and the other three are supposed to check out in mid-November as result of spacecraft and landing restrictions.