Mir Crew Prepares Space Robot
MOSCOW (AP) _ The Mir’s crew has started preparations for a pioneering experiment with a space robot examining the space station in a two-day flyover, officials said Thursday.
Earlier this week, cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov have checked the Inspector, a device equipped with several television cameras which is due to be launched on a trip around the station on Dec. 17, said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin.
The prism-shaped, one-yard long robot will be jettisoned from the station and closely study its outer surface for two days before being discarded. It will fly most of the time in an automatic mode, the crew guiding it only for a brief period, Lyndin said.
A similar robot is designed for an international space station, first segments of which are scheduled to be launched next year.
Ground controllers told the Russian-American crew to be extra careful with the Inspector in order to avoid the repetition of the June 25 crash when an unmanned cargo ship slammed into the station during a practice manual docking.
The planned spacewalk by Solovyov and NASA astronaut David Wolf, initially set for Dec. 5, has been postponed to allow the crew more time to prepare for the Inspector’s launch.
The spacewalk is now tentatively set for Jan. 9. Before that, on Jan. 5, Solovyov and Vinogradov are scheduled to venture into open space to prepare for repairs of the Spektr lab module, which was punctured and decompressed in the June collision.
The crew has been unable to spot holes in the Spektr, and the Inspector flyover isn’t expected to shed more light on their location, Lyndin said. It would require another close examination of the module’s outer surface by the crew, the date for which has not been set yet.
The aging Mir, beset by a steady string of accidents this year, has seen a more quiet period recently as the crew have succeeded in restoring most of the power lost in the June collision.