An American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts will return to Earth on Sept. 15, leaving three others onboard the International Space Station while an investigation into an Aug. 24 Soyuz rocket failure continues on the the ground.
NASA flight engineer Ron Garan and two cosmonaut collagues -- Andrey Borisenko and Alexander Samokutyaev -- had been slated to return to Earth on Sept. 8, but their stay was extended after the loss of a Soyuz U rocket and a supply-filled Progress cargo carrier.
An engine powering the third stage of the rocket shut down prematurely, and the Soyuz and Progress broke up in the atmosphere. Any surviving wreckage fell in a remote area of the republic of Altai near Kazakhstan's borders with China and Mongolia.
The failure indefinitely delayed the planned Sept. 21 launch of a new station crew that includes U.S. astronaut Dan Burbank. The Soyuz FG rocket that launches crews to the station has an engine similar to the one that failed Aug. 24 after blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russian officials hope to complete the Soyuz failure investigation before the three astronauts and cosmonauts who will remain onboard the station are forced to evacuate the outpost and return to Earth. U.S. astronaut Mike Fossum, Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov and Satoshi Furukowa of Japan Arospace Exploration Agency are slated to fly home in mid-November.