Russia has proposed cutting the number of cosmonauts at the International Space Station from three to two -- a plan NASA is studying to see whether it poses risks to other crew members.
Typically, six crew members live at the orbiting outpost.
NASA's Kenneth Todd said on August 15 that Russia recently told its space station partners that it was considering downsizing to save money amid a tight budget.
The Russian plan would go into effect no earlier than 2017, Interfax reported. Todd said Russia has committed to the current program at least through 2024, but NASA is concerned about possible risks from a reduced staff.
"We will look at it...We will trade it against whatever risk that might put into the program," he said. "First and foremost, the risk to our crew onboard and the station itself."
NASA will try to "either accommodate it or help them realize why that is a bad thing," he said.
Since 2000, the station has been continuously occupied by a rotating staff of astronauts who typically stay for six months at a time before returning to Earth.