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Another Spacewalk for Mir’s Crew

April 6, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ After two disappointing efforts, the Russian cosmonauts on the Mir headed into open space today to try to reinforce a bent solar panel.

On the first attempt last month, cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin couldn’t open the Mir’s exit hatch and had to call off the spacewalk.

Last Wednesday, they got the door open, but needed much longer than expected to set up support equipment. They ran low on air _ their tanks hold enough for about seven hours _ and had to return to the station after almost seven hours.

The two cosmonauts still must install another foothold today before they can start working on the solar panel, which was damaged in a collision with a cargo ship last June.

In today’s spacewalk, which is planned to last about 5 1/2 hours _ The cosmonauts are to install a 5-foot metal splint to reinforce the bent solar panel panel.

The damaged panel is the only one of the Mir’s 10 solar panels that is not working. Russian space officials said they have no hope of making the panel work again, but they worry it could break loose and hit the station unless it is reinforced.

The crew plans three more spacewalks this month _ on April 11, 17 and 22 _ to repair the station’s exterior.

The third man on the Mir, NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas, will remain inside the station during this month’s spacewalks, filming his colleagues’ progress.

After a series of accidents and breakdowns last year, the 12-year-old Mir has been largely trouble-free in recent months.

Russian space officials hope to keep the station manned at least until next year, when a new international space station should be ready. Russia and the United States are among 15 countries involved in the project.

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