Unmanned Craft Bears Food, Water to 2 Cosmonauts Stranded in Space

Reuters

The Soviet Union said Thursday that it launched an unmanned spacecraft to ferry equipment, food and drinking water to cosmonauts stranded since February in the orbiting Mir space station.

A special Kristall module, aboard a Proton rocket launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome, is scheduled to dock with Mir on June 6, the official Tass news agency said.

Insulation on a Soyuz spacecraft carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Alexander Balandin to Mir was damaged during its launch Feb. 11, raising fears the two could be stranded without a reliable means of returning to earth.

The U.S. trade journal Aviation and Space Week, quoting a visiting Soviet cosmonaut, reported two weeks ago that Solovyov and Balandin were left "without a reliable vehicle in the event of an emergency."

Soviet space officials said there is no danger to the cosmonauts, adding that the damage will not hinder a return flight. However, they said that a space walk is planned to allow the cosmonauts to repair the damage.

The report did not say whether the cosmonauts' mission has been extended to allow repair of their spacecraft.

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