Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Saturday, April 11, 1998 Published at 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK


Cosmonauts complete space station repairs

Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space

Cosmonauts orbiting the Earth in the accident-prone Mir space station have completed a six-hour space walk to make repairs to the craft's hull.

Captain Talgat Musabayev and colleague Nikolai Budarin returned to Mir after successfully completing the latest in a series of space walks.

Their latest mission had been to remove an old thruster engine in an operation to keep the ageing station aligned with the sun.

[ image: Marathon six-hour space walk]
Marathon six-hour space walk
The two Russians crawled along a 14-metre support boom on the 12-year-old station from where they detached the engine and pushed off into space.

The engine will go into a deteriorating orbit and burn up in the Earth's upper atmosphere.

Speaking to a tense mission control as he watched the engine float away, Capt Musabayev said: "That's it, it's gone."

Out of fuel

During a previous space walk, the engine ran out of fuel and the cosmonauts were forced to rush back into the station to activate a back-up booster to restore the station's alignment.

Orientation engines are not rechargeable and must be replaced when they run out of fuel.

Mission control gave the go-ahead for the planned six-hour operation at 1.55pm Moscow time (0955 GMT).

Despite the obvious tension surrounding such a delicate operation, the two cosmonauts managed to take a swipe at the technicians back home.

After being told not to rush and take a rest, cosmonaut Budarin sardonically replied: "When we return to Earth we'll put you in a spacesuit so you can rest in it for some eight hours."

After an hour of careful crawling, the cosmonauts reached the engine as Mir circled high above the Sahara desert.

The third Mir crew member, Nasa astronaut Andrew Thomas, stayed inside the station to film his colleagues' progress.

Next space walks

[ image: Mir: troubled past]
Mir: troubled past
Two more space walks are planned over the next fortnight when the cosmonauts will install the new orientation engine.

But the accident-prone space station which became the focus of high drama last year has enjoyed a relatively trouble free few months.

Russian officials want to man the station at least until next year when the planned international space station could be ready to welcome its first crew.

Disasters which have befallen the space station have gone from the extremely serious to the faintly comic.

At one point there were genuine fears for the lives of the crew, which included British-born astronaut Michael Foales, after a mid-space collision with the station's own supply ship.

In March the crew experienced a minor crisis when were forced to cancel a space walk after they broke three spanners trying to loosen a stubborn hatch.

They had to wait two weeks for a supply rocket to deliver a new set of tools.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sci/Tech Contents

Relevant Stories

03 Mar 98 | Sci/Tech
Mir crew breaks the toolbox

19 Feb 98 | Sci/Tech
Chilly return for spacemen

08 Feb 98 | Sci/Tech
Mir space station turns into a shop

24 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
We have contact - shuttle docks with Mir

23 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Endeavour launch marks Mir's final stand

15 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Mir's Wolf makes first spacewalk

09 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Cosmonauts fix Mir air leak

03 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Mir crew tackle latest breakdown

17 Dec 97 | Sci/Tech
New setback for Mir

06 Nov 97 | Sci/Tech
Cosmonauts on spacewalk to repair Mir

03 Nov 97 | Sci/Tech
Mir space repairs successful

30 Oct 97 | Sci/Tech
Astronaut thought he was going to die instantly

Internet Links

Mir Interactive Display

Mir website

Mir News

Russian Space Agency

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer