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Astronauts Set NASA Endurance Mark

June 12, 2002

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) _ NASA’s new space endurance champs, a pair of astronauts who have broken the six-month barrier, have no interest in going after the world record of more than one year.

``I’m ready to come home,″ spaceman Daniel Bursch, the father of four, said Wednesday. He said he was looking forward to a pizza.

Bursch and Carl Wurz broke the U.S. space endurance record of 188 days on Tuesday night as they slept. The old record had been set by Shannon Lucid in 1996 aboard Russia’s Mir station.

The two Americans and Russian cosmonaut Yuri Onufrienko rocketed into orbit on Dec. 5 and moved into the international space station two days later. Last week, they relinquished their station positions to two Russians and one American who arrived on space shuttle Endeavour.

By the time Endeavour returns to Earth on Monday, Bursch, Walz and Onufrienko will have logged 194 days in orbit.

``Of course, you all have a long ways to go if you’re going to break the all-time single flight record of about 438 days,″ Mission Control told the men. ``Do we have any volunteers today to go for that record?″

The answer: an emphatic no.

Valery Polyakov, a Russian cosmonaut-physician, set the 438-day record aboard Mir in 1994 and 1995.

``Without a shadow of a doubt in my opinion, the biggest challenge would be mental and psychological,″ Bursch said.

Bursch, 44, a Navy captain, said his mission was a lot like a naval deployment, ``only the biggest difference was never getting out of your stateroom for six months.″

Walz used the time to learn to play the guitar, while Onufrienko let his dark blond hair grow. As of Wednesday afternoon, Onufrienko had yet to have a haircut during his flight, though the cosmonaut who replaced him as space station commander has promised to give him a trim before he leaves.

NASA extended the space station crew’s mission by a month, back in March, to squeeze in extra repair work during Endeavour’s visit.

The repair _ wrist surgery on the station’s robot arm _ was to take place Thursday during the third and final spacewalk of Endeavour’s mission.

``At this point, when we’re within just several days of going home, it’s easy to say, `Well, yeah, it’s been great and we’re going home,‴ Bursch said. ``But yeah, we all miss our families. But we’re really happy that everything’s gone really well.″

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On the Net:

NASA: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov

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