MOSCOW, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Russia confirmed Friday three new crew members for the International Space Station (ISS).
They were NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko and Japanese astronaut Akihito Hoshide, a spokesman for Russia's Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center told reporters.
The new crew members have passed all of the exams at the training center and Russia's Soyuz TMA-05M rocket has been scheduled to take them to the ISS from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan on July 15, the spokesman said.
The backup members for the new crew also were announced and include Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn.
The new crew members will join the current ISS crew, which includes Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin and NASA astronaut Joe Acaba, who have been in orbit since mid-May.
Meanwhile, three other members of the current crew, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, were preparing in the station for their return to Earth on July 1.
After the retirement of the U.S. shuttle fleet, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft is the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS at least until 2015.