Space crews nearly finished moving equipment between Atlantis, Mir
SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ A couple of hundred items down. A few dozen to go.
The crews of the space shuttle Atlantis and Russia’s Mir station were almost finished hauling more than 3 tons of supplies and equipment between the docked spacecraft.
The seven-member shuttle crew and three Mir men _ two cosmonauts and an American _ must have everything in place by Wednesday morning, when the hatches between the two spacecraft are to be closed. Atlantis is to undock that night and return to Earth on Saturday after nine days aloft.
Early today, the astronauts and cosmonauts had completed more than three-fourths of the transfers. The eight men and two women were almost done moving 10 100-pound bags of water into Mir.
They made a key swap within hours of Atlantis’ arrival Friday night, trading NASA astronaut Michael Foale for Jerry Linenger, who had lived on the station since January. Foale began a 4 1/2-month stay.
``Mike is going to have a challenge ahead of him,″ Linenger said on a CNN interview this morning, referring to potential problems on the aging station.
During his stint, Linenger had to contend with a fire, leaking antifreeze fumes, broken oxygen generators and a carbon-dioxide removal system that overheated.
He said besides helping Foale settle in, he’s given him ``little pointers that I think a month from now, he’ll say `Oh, yeah, I remember Jerry telling me something about that,′ ″ he said.
Foale said he’s ``pleasantly surprised″ by the conditions of the station and the lifestyle there.
``I’ve noticed the difference even already,″ Foale said. ``The shuttle guys are having to work to a timeline that’s compressed. They have to get back on Earth. The beauty of being here with a long-term crew is you get to relax and think about the long term and enjoy your meals, enjoy your conversation, pace your workouts, and so it’s actually quite a new way to work. And I’m enjoying this transition.″
On Monday, the crew took air and water samples on the 11-year-old station _ designed to last five years _ to check for contaminants from broken equipment.
Shuttle commander Charles Precourt asked Mission Control if the crews could get rid of 80 gallons of water from condensation on the cluttered Mir by dumping it from Atlantis. The station usually recycles waste water for drinking, but officials fear the condensate might contain the dangerous ethylene glycol that had been leaking from the cooling system.
NASA today ordered the crews to keep the bags of condensate aboard Mir.
Frank Culbertson, director of NASA’s shuttle-Mir program, said managers were worried the bags might break during transfer to Atlantis and felt there wasn’t enough time to assess the situation. If samples being returned on Atlantis are found to be safe, then Foale and the two cosmonauts will be able use the waste water, he said. In the meantime, they will continue to drink fresh water supplied by the shuttle.