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July 30, 1997

Michael Braukus
Headquarters, Washington, DC
Phone: (202/358-1979)

Rob Navias/Ed Campion
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX
Phone: (281/483-5111)

Release: 97-163

NASA Announces Revised Plan For Mir Staffing

Astronaut Wendy Lawrence (Cmdr, USN) has been replaced by her backup, Dr. David Wolf, for the next long duration stay on the Russian Mir space station. The change will enable Wolf to act as a backup crew member for spacewalks planned over the next several months to repair the damaged Spektr module on the Russian outpost.

Lawrence does not fit in the Orlan suit which Russian cosmonauts use for spacewalk tasks and never underwent spacewalk training. Wolf fits in the Orlan suit.

Lawrence will continue training in the backup role according to normal procedures, in the unlikely event that she is needed.

To enable Wolf to complete spacewalk training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow, the launch of Atlantis on the next Shuttle-Mir docking mission, STS-86 in September, could be delayed approximately 10 days. Wolf had been scheduled for launch in January on STS-89 as the prime crew member for the final long duration increment on the Mir.

NASA will be conducting their normal safety reviews in preparation for the transfer of a U.S. astronaut to Mir as was done before the last shuttle docking mission. This review will imclude an evaluation of all the events that have occurred aboard the Mir since the last docking mission. That final determination is expected at the conclusion of the formal U.S. review process at the shuttle program Flight Readiness Review in September.

NASA and Russian space officials have discussed a variety of options for backup spacewalk capability since the Spektr module was damaged in the collision of a Progress resupply craft on June 25. It was jointly agreed by both sides that it would be mutually beneficial to have all three crew members on the Mir qualified for spacewalks in the event additional assistance is needed from the U.S. astronaut on the station.

The Russians usually only fly two people trained for spacewalks, said Frank Culbertson, Manager of the Shuttle-Mir Phase One program. Because of the number and the nature of spacewalks under consideration by the Russians to repair the Spektr, we have discussed at length the advantage of having another astronaut qualified for those tasks.

Culbertson added, The fact that Wendy does not fit in an Orlan suit is not unusual. When first selected to fly on the Mir, it was absolutely normal that she would not be considered to be a spacewalk qualified crew member. Only because of subsequent events have requirements on board the Mir changed. As a result, the joint decision was made to have all three crew members on board qualified to handle spacewalking tasks.

Lawrence was informed of the decision by Culbertson, who is in Russia for meetings with Russian space officials.

Because of her knowledge and experience with Mir systems and with crew transfer logistics for the Mir, NASA will fly Lawrence on STS-86 in September which will deliver Wolf to the Russian station. Wolf is fully trained on both Mir and Soyuz capsule systems.

NOTE TO EDITORS:

The next Shuttle-Mir press conference will be held Thursday, July 31, at 10 a.m. CDT. NASA Phase One Director Frank Culbertson, who is currently in Moscow for meetings, will brief news media on the decision to change the next astronaut scheduled for a long duration flight on the Mir.

The press conference will be carried live on NASA TV with two-way question and answer capabilities. Reports will be limited to one question each.

 

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