Tim Furniss/LONDON

Thomas Reiter, the European Space Agency's German air-force astronaut, has become the first foreigner to qualify to command a flight of the Russian three-crew Soyuz TM.

Reiter, a veteran of a 179-day shift aboard the Mir 1 space station in 1996, which included two spacewalks, will be available to command a Soyuz TM re-entry and landing from the International Space Station (ISS).

The TM will be docked at the ISS for a routine return flight, or as one of two TM Interim Crew Emergency Return Vehicles (CERVs), which will always be available to evacuate the six-person ISS crew if necessary.

Each ISS crew will eventually have to include two qualified Soyuz TM commanders. The TM will later be replaced by a NASA-developed CERV.

Russia, meanwhile, has selected further ISS crews, joining the three already in training for the first manned occupation.

The first Soyuz TM mission, due in January 1999, will include Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, who will be joined by ISS commander US astronaut William Shepherd (Flight International, 11-17 June).

Other Russian crews will include commanders Yuri Malenchenko, Yuri Onufreinko, Vladimir Dezhurov, Valeri Korzun and Salizhan Sharipov. The flight engineers are Nadezhda Kuzhelnaya and Mikhail Tyurin of NPO Energia.

Conditions on the Mir 1 permitting, Russia has also named the 1998 Mir mission crews. Talgat Muzabayev and Nikolai Budarin will fly the TM27 mission in January, which will include French cosmonaut Leopold Eyharts.

The TM 28 will be flown by Gennadi Padalko and Sergei Avdeyev. Two other TM-Mir crews are Viktor Afanasyev and Sergei Treshchev, and Sergei Zaletin and Alexander Kaleri.

Source: Flight International