RUSSIAN BODY OF COSMONAUTS TO INCREASE

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MOSCOW, April 1 (RIA Novosti) - In 2005 the Russian team of cosmonauts will be increased by five to six new members, the spokesman for the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center has said.

Five to six young candidates from among military pilots will undergo a course of general space preparation, he said. Now, the body of cosmonauts is made up of 21.

At the same time, Russia has at least three cosmonaut teams. The first, best known and numerically large including military pilots, is based in the Star City. The Russian space corporation Energia, found in the town of Korolev near Moscow, has its own small team of non-military cosmonauts.

The Institute of Medico-Biological Problems has prepared in Moscow a team of cosmonaut-physicians. One is Valeri Polyakov, a world record-holder in orbital service. In different times there were ad-hoc "target teams", such as the now non-existent women's team.

The Russian Space Agency (Roskosmos) is considering setting up an integrated team of cosmonauts. It will most probably be formed at the historical base of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Earlier, Roskosmos chief Anatoli Perminov said: "Russia should have an integrated team of cosmonauts. The Defense Ministry has asked the Federal Space Agency to consider the proposal on step-by-step passing of the Gagarin center under Roskosmos. We are thoroughly studying the proposal and there is such a possibility", Perminov noted.

Very soon the cosmonaut team in the Star City may be replenished. "Every month I receive from managers and individuals letters asking to consider space candidatures. Yes, the cosmonaut team will be replenished", he said.

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