Two Cosmonauts Successfully Dismantle Failing Solar Panel and Make Repairs to Russian Space
Two Cosmonauts Successfully Dismantle Failing Solar Panel and Make Repairs to Russian Space Station Mir on Six-Hour SpacewalkBy VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
MOSCOW (AP) _ In a six-hour spacewalk, two Russian cosmonauts successfully dismantled a failing solar panel today on Mir and found time to do more repairs on the battered space station despite last-minute problems with a spacesuit.
The spacewalk went smoothly with Mir commander Anatoly Solovyov and crewmate Pavel Vinogradov removing the aging solar panel. A new panel is to be installed Thursday on a second spacewalk.
U.S. astronaut David Wolf operated controls inside the Mir as his two crewmates worked outside.
Also today, the Mir deployed a replica of Sputnik _ the satellite that launched the space race 40 years ago.
The Mir’s crew have been trying to reverse the effects of a collision in June and a string of other mishaps. Several recent repair missions have gone well.
Things did not look good when today’s mission was delayed for two hours after a problem was discovered with Solovyov’s spacesuit. The suit’s radio monitoring system was not working, making it impossible for Mission Control to track its oxygen supplies and other safety factors.
But Mission Control decided to go ahead with the spacewalk, cautioning Solovyov to keep a sharp eye on his suit’s readings. There was no problem with the suit during the spacewalk.
``You should be more attentive and regularly report the pressure and report back,″ Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov instructed the Mir commander by radio.
``We carried out the spacewalk as planned, but with a two-hour delay. This is unpleasant, but not dangerous,″ Solovyov, the mission chief, later told reporters.
The cosmonauts worked efficiently, with few radio exchanges with Mission Control. After removing the solar panel, the cosmonauts made adjustments for a new carbon dioxide removal system and recovered several scientific experiments from Mir’s hull.
Deputy Mission Control chief Igor Goncharov said the cosmonauts had been in no danger despite problems with the suit. ``Solovyov’s spacesuit is working fine. The only problem is a communications block,″ he said.
Solovyov, the world’s most experienced spacewalker, was making his fourth trip outside the Mir’s pressurized modules since arriving in August. In his career, he has made more than a dozen spacewalks.
Today’s mission was part of an ongoing operation to boost the Mir’s power supply, cut nearly in half when the station was hit by a cargo ship during a practice docking in June.
The two cosmonauts previously made two ``internal spacewalks″ into the airless Spektr module, punctured in the collision, and reconnected solar panels to the Mir’s power system. Solovyov and U.S. astronaut Michael Foale walked into open space in September to look for the holes in the Spektr’s hull, but were unable to find them.
Wolf, who replaced Foale, is expected to take part in a future spacewalk with Solovyov to retrieve some American scientific experiments from the outside of the Mir.
The Mir’s power supply is sufficient for everyday operations, and this week’s repairs should increase the energy available for scientific experiments and other projects.
If this week’s effort is successful, then eight of the Mir’s 10 solar panels will be working normally. Another one is operating, but at less than full capacity, and one was damaged beyond repair in the June crash.
The cosmonauts started the spacewalk today by deploying a small working satellite that is a replica of Sputnik, the world’s first man-made satellite, which was launched by the Soviet Union on Oct. 4, 1957.
Russian and French children helped make the satellite, which is one-third the size of the original, itself only about as big as a beachball. While Russian engineers constructed the exterior of the replica, the children built the transmitter inside.
The cosmonauts launched the satellite into orbit by simply pushing it out into space. It will trail behind Mir in the same orbit.