Mir Crewmen Smiling, Relaxed in TV Footage


Russian television on Sunday broadcast the first images from inside the damaged Mir space station since last week’s accident, showing U.S. astronaut Michael Foale and his two cosmonaut colleagues smiling and praising one another’s quick actions in containing the disaster.

Foale, Mir commander Vasily Tsibliyev and flight engineer Alexander Lazutkin appeared relaxed and coping well with the loss of power and many conveniences aboard the ill-fated space station since it was struck by a supply craft during a manual docking practice Wednesday.

But the space trio made no mention of progress in repeated attempts to recharge Mir’s solar batteries and restore their oxygen supply system. The Mir occupants were last reported by NASA to be relying on a backup system of “oxygen candles.”


Mir lost as much as 40% of its power supply in the accident--the worst in the space station’s troubled 11-year history--when the Progress supply drone crashed into the Spektr laboratory module while the two cosmonauts were trying to manually pilot the unmanned craft into another of Mir’s docking ports.

Foale had used the Spektr as his private quarters and lost many of his personal belongings and vital research equipment when the supply drone punctured the module’s hull, sucking out Spektr’s air and contents.

The crewmen managed to close off the Spektr module and prevent the rest of Mir’s interior from losing pressure, but they had to sever cables carrying power from four of the space station’s 10 solar panels to get the hatch between Spektr and Mir sealed.

Russian Space Agency officials are drafting a risky repair mission to be attempted by the cosmonauts once another supply ferry arrives July 7 or 8 with supplies and equipment to repair the damage.

The two cosmonauts are expected to perform the repair operation while Foale is stationed in the Soyuz capsule docked at the station in the event the project goes awry and the three have to escape.

Tsibliyev, Lazutkin and Foale spent Sunday preparing for the repair effort, Russia’s independent NTV reported from Mission Control Center. But it was unclear what specific practice they were able to carry out on board the power-rationed space station, where everything except vital life-support systems has been shut down.


During their brief video appearance--earlier transmissions were avoided to conserve power--Mir’s occupants spoke only of their swift responses to contain damage inflicted by the crash.

In a radio conversation, chief flight director Vladimir Solovyov commented on how good the men looked.

“We are alive, thank God,” Tsibliyev replied.


Efforts to reach Russian Space Agency officials failed Sunday as media liaisons and other administrative personnel were given their first day off since the accident, but a spokeswoman reached earlier by the Reuters news service was quoted as saying the Mir crewmen were busy “dismantling some secondary equipment in the crowded station, clearing the space needed to don their spacesuits.”

The repair plan, expected to be carried out July 10-14, calls for the two cosmonauts to execute a space walk within the close quarters of the Spektr module to reconnect the idled solar batteries to Mir’s power grid.

Tsibliyev has expressed concerns that the crew lacks the experience for the sensitive operation and that there may be too little room to maneuver within the Spektr.

Unless full power can be restored to Mir and scientific experiments resumed, the station may have to be abandoned.