Space station crew not forgotten.

International space station crew retrievable even with shuttles grounded
By: Associated Press

(Moscow) -- One day after the loss of space shuttle Columbia, Russia has launched an unmanned supply vessel to the international space station.

The cargo ship is expected to dock with the space station on Tuesday -- delivering fuel, equipment, and food and mail for the crew.

The launch, which had been planned for a while, comes as the Russian space program comes under more pressure to deliver crews and supplies to the station -- even amid financial troubles.

NASA had called for expanding the space station during five shuttle flights this year -- but the space agency has put shuttle launches on hold pending an inquiry into yesterday's shuttle disaster.

A spokesman with Russia's space agency says it's prepared to pick up some of the slack -- but he adds that further space station construction probably won't be possible until the shuttle missions resume.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)