MOSCOW (AP) _ The crew of the Mir took a brief trip outside the space station today, moving the spacecraft's escape capsule from one side of the vehicle to another, officials said.

Russians Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin and U.S. astronaut Andrew Thomas needed to shift the Soyuz capsule to clear space for the next cargo ship to arrive, said Mission Control spokeswoman Vera Medvedkova.

During the 45-minute operation, ground controllers temporarily lost contact with the crew. Mission Control officials described the problem as minor, saying it occurred when the Mir briefly lost its connection to a communications satellite.

Mir, which marked its 12th anniversary in space on Thursday, lurched from crisis to crisis last year but has been relatively trouble-free recently. Russian space officials said the Mir's longevity proved the soundness of its design and operation.