Russia could send Brazilian into space next year

Russia's space agency may fly a Brazilian astronaut to the International Space Station on board a Russian Soyuz craft next year, Russian news agencies reported Saturday.

Space agency chief Anatoly Perminov and the head of the Brazilian Defense Ministry's external relations department, Carlos Augusto Leal Velloso, discussed the "possible flight of the first Brazilian cosmonaut to the ISS next year," the ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Russian agency spokesman Vyacheslav Davydenko as saying.

"It is technically possible, but a lot will depend on how the United States will resume shuttle flights," Interfax quoted Perminov as saying.

U.S. space shuttle flights have been grounded since the February 2003 Columbia disaster, leaving Russian space craft as the only means of transport to the station. The first space mission on a shuttle since the disaster is scheduled to launch May 15.

During a visit to Brazil in November, President Vladimir Putin agreed that Russia would help Brazil resume its space program and restore its rocket-launching base, destroyed by an explosion in 2003 that killed 21 people. Russia also promised to take a Brazilian astronaut on a flight to the orbiting station.

Velloso told Perminov that a Brazilian air force officer had been training under the U.S. space agency, NASA, ITAR-Tass quoted Davydenko as saying.

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