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Thursday, October 30, 1997 Published at 16:41 GMT


Astronaut thought he was going to die instantly

Foale: Glad to be back on earth

The British-born astronaut, Michael Foale, has been recalling how he feared he might die instantly when the Mir space station he was aboard collided with a support vehicle.

He was giving his first full interview about his time on the Mir space station and how he is coping with life back on earth.
[ image: Damage to Mir after the collision]
Damage to Mir after the collision
He touched down at Cape Canaveral three weeks ago after spending 145 days in space. Many of them marred by accidents and mechanical failure.

"I feel great right now. I have most of my strength back and my balance came back to me the day after landing " Michael Foale told BBC News.

[ image: Mir: A space station dogged by problems]
Mir: A space station dogged by problems
"It is almost as if the last two years going to Russia with my family, going to space and coming back is like a dream. I am back in usual surroundings with my family now and looking forward to moving on with my work at Nasa."

Mr Foale remembered how, on June 25, Mir hit the headlines when a docking procedure went drastically wrong.

"There was a test being carried out with the progress supply vehicle. It was undocked on purpose and purposefully piloted back by remote control using a TV camera. It was being controlled by the commander" said the British-born astronaut.

But the commander's training was not sufficient to allow him to complete the docking procedure.

"As a result it ended up in hitting us and causing the collision" said Mr Foale.

[ image: Controllers watch Mir's progress anxiously]
Controllers watch Mir's progress anxiously
"It was frightening for one or two seconds. The first thought was are we going to die instantly because of air rushing out so fast that we couldn't control it. It was obvious within two or three seconds that the air wasn't rushing out. Then we thought we had time and I heard the pressure dropping. Immediately from that point, I thought "oh, this is a surprisingly robust station".

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