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Mir Crew Space Walks, Experiments

April 16, 1999

MOSCOW (AP) _ Two crew members of Russia’s Mir space station went on a space walk today to set up experiments and test tools designed to patch holes in the aging ship, officials said.

Russian cosmonaut Viktor Afanasyev and French astronaut Jean-Pierre Heignere were expected to spend five hours outside the ship during the space walk, said Vera Medvedkova, a Russian Space Agency spokeswoman.

The third crew member, Sergei Avdeyev, a Russian, was monitoring his crew mates from inside the Mir.

The patching equipment was originally designed to seal leaks in Mir’s Spektr module, which was severely damaged when a runaway cargo ship slammed into it in 1997.

Spektr has never been repaired, and the tools never tested, because crew members at the time could not find all the module’s leaks.

Afanasyev and Heignere also planned to set up a Russian device to test radiation levels around the Mir, and attach various organic substances in special casings to the outside of the ship to see what happens to living matter in space, Medvedkova said.

They were also expected to retrieve a French-made ``meteorite trap″ that was installed earlier this year to catch microscopic debris when Mir passed through a meteor shower.

In the final part of the space walk, Heignere was to release a small satellite made by Russian and French schoolchildren that has been programmed to play a recording of their voices. If all goes according to plan, the recording will be heard on the Mir and at Mission Control, outside Moscow.

The Mir’s current three-man crew is possibly its last. If outside investors cannot be found to foot the 13-year-old station’s dlrs 250 million yearly costs, the cash-strapped government may have to discard it in August.

The United States has been pressuring the government to dedicate itself to the International Space Station, a 16-nation project that has been delayed by Russia’s inability to build key components on time.

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