HOUSTON — The International Space Station Program has announced a change in how two future crew members will return home. NASA astronaut Nicole Stott and Canadian Space Agency astronaut Robert Thirsk will swap seats on the space shuttle and Russian Soyuz spacecraft to help ensure a timely homecoming for Thirsk.

Thirsk will launch to the station on a Soyuz in May and return to Earth on that same vehicle in November, instead of aboard space shuttle Atlantis at the end of the STS-129 mission. Stott, who will launch to the station on shuttle Discovery’s STS-128 mission, will return aboard Atlantis with the STS-129 crew. She had been slated to come home aboard the Soyuz that Thirsk now will occupy.

The change is in case of delays to future shuttle missions, specifically STS-129, which currently is scheduled to launch in November 2009. Such a delay could result in extending Thirsk’s mission beyond the six-month duration preferred for station crew members.

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