IJMC - Mir In Space!
Ok, so maybe this isn't as exciting as good ole reruns of the Muppet
Show, however, it is current events. And no, the IJMC isn't trying to
take CNN's place (yet). Just read on and enjoy, or not. -dave
Tension turns to laughs after more Mir snags
By Alastair Macdonald
KOROLYOV, Russia (Reuter) - The script was pure suspense at
Mission Control Friday as Mir engineer Pavel Vinogradov
announced that his space suit was leaking and the rush of
emergency oxygen supplies whistled across the radio link.
But after a series of snags that typified recent weeks on
the jinxed Russian space station and seemed set to, at best,
delay repairs, the cosmonauts pressed the laughter button and
jokes and banter buzzed across the radio.
``Hey, Mike, why'd you cut the TV cable?'' Vinogradov called
from the damaged Spektr module to British-born NASA physicist
Michael Foale. ``How are we going to watch the movies now?''
Foale, the third man on the crew, spent the day sitting in
the escape capsule in case anything went wrong for Vinogradov
and Commander Anatoly Solovyov as they attempted to reconnect a
series of power cables in the airless Spektr module.
Spektr was Foale's home until two months ago, when a cargo
craft slammed into it, forcing the crew to slam the hatches to
save the station and cutting off power from the module's vital
solar panels in the process.
``That's probably my shampoo,'' he told Vinogradov, who,
after weeks of anxious speculation about what lurked in the
cramped, darkened module, found only some white crystals
floating toward him.
``Maybe there's some crew still in there,'' ground control
chief Vladimir Solovyov said after Vinogradov reported that many
of the electrical systems inside Spektr, including the air
ventilators, were still working.
``I'll take a look,'' shot back the 43-year-old flight
engineer, who was making his first space flight and his first
venture into airless conditions.
An hour earlier, it had been a different story.
First, the operation to open the hatch into Spektr was put
off when something went wrong with the procedures to equalize
the pressures between the module and the airlock where the
cosmonauts were preparing.
Then, with the pressure dropped close to zero in the airlock
at a second attempt, Vinogradov's glove sprang a leak. The
stiff, bulky space suit is designed to keep the man inside at
close to normal atmospheric pressure. If it fails and the
pressure drops, the human body can effectively burst.
As emergency procedures went into operation, reserve oxygen
gushed into the airlock to build up the pressure again.
The atmosphere on the ground was pure Hitchcock.
Mission director Solovyov -- no relation to the Mir
commander -- tried to lighten it.
``Which glove is it?'' he asked Vinogradov.
``Left side,'' he replied.
``I told you not to have a bit on the side!'' said Solovyov.
An hour or so later, it was a different story and the laughs
were for real.
As Vinogradov plugged home cable after cable to restore
power to the crippled craft, the banter started flowing.
Without gravity, it is probably not possible to be a
stand-up comic in space. But the engineer gave it his best shot,
backed up by his two crewmates.
``I'm an artist now,'' Foale replied drily as the Russians
announced gleefully that they had found some pictures round his
When Vinogradov reported seeing a liquid floating around in
the module, Solovyov told him, ``Don't touch it. Use a napkin.''
``It's just water,'' came the reply.
``How do you know?''
Vinogradov chuckled inside the goldfish bowl of his space
helmet. ``I tasted it.''