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Thursday, January 15, 1998 Published at 02:34 GMT



Sci/Tech

Mir's Wolf makes first spacewalk
image: [ It's dark out there: the astronauts spent four hours outside Mir (Nasa photo) ]
It's dark out there: the astronauts spent four hours outside Mir (Nasa photo)

American astronaut David Wolf has made his first spacewalk to look for leaks outside Mir's hull.

The 41-year-old's first trip outside came after three months on the aged Russian space station. It had an ominous start.

The Russian flight commander Anatoly Solovyov, 49, joining him on the spacewalk, warned: "David, don't touch anything, just follow me."

The pair spent around four hours outside Mir, checking evidence of a leaking hatchway on the Kvant-2 module, filmed previously by Mr Solovyov.

The leak causes a slight dip in air pressure inside the module, which is separate from the rest of Mir.

Record-holder trains rookie

Mr Solovyov holds the record for spacewalks. He has made 16 - six from Mir - clocking up around 80 hours outside a space station.

In contrast, Mr Wolf, who arrived on Mir in September, had never previously stepped outside.

On the ground, the duty operator said: "Tolya [Anatoly], you should take care of David and let him relax.

"You know, the man is in outer space for the first time."

In recent spacewalks from Mir, including one last Friday when further external damage was found, Pavel Vinogradov, 43, accompanied Mr Solovyov.

Then, Mr Wolf stayed back in the escape capsule filming his colleagues through a window.

On this spacewalk, Mr Wolf had to be tempted back inside by the promise of prawns to eat.

When he was first told to go inside again, he said : "I don't want to go back."

In a radio exchange, he added: "This is my first space walk and it is very spectacular and I would like to do this once again."

Before returning to Mir, he got Mr Solovyov to take a photograph and said: "This is a great moment in my life."

Minor troubles left for new crew


[ image: Mir suffered a catalogue of problems in 1997]
Mir suffered a catalogue of problems in 1997
A fresh crew, consisting of Kazakhstan's Talgat Musabayev, Russian Nikolai Budarin, and French astronaut Leopold Eyharts is to blast off from Earth on January 29 to take over on Mir.

The space station's fortune's have improved since a new computer was installed at the end of last year. But the arrivals will find much work to be done.

The last spacewalk discovered a broken hatch lock. This, alongside holes in the Spektr module from the June 25 collision and an air leak from the exit hatch, are being left for the new crew. These problems are not considered serious.

The 12-year-old Mir space station was originally intended only to remain operational for five years.

But Russia's space agency and others say the cosmonauts on Mir are in no excessive danger.

They hope the current spacewalk will also provide useful data for protective coatings for the Alpha international space station, the first component of which Russia is due to launch in June.
 





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