For the third time this year, a U.S. astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut walked and worked in space together today, retrieving scientific experiments from the Docking Module on the Mir Space Station while leaving a device behind for future repair work on the damaged Spektr module as the Atlantis-Mir space complex orbited the Earth in flawless fashion.
Astronaut Scott Parazynski and his Atlantis crewmate, Russian cosmonaut Vladimir Titov, spent 5 hours and one minute in the Shuttle’s cargo bay and at the Docking Module itself, collecting four suitcase-size packages called MEEPS, the Mir Environmental Effects Payloads, which were left outside the Mir by another pair of Shuttle spacewalkers a year and a half ago to collect data on how the space environment affects an orbiting space station.
Parazynski and Titov floated out of a hatch on Atlantis’ tunnel adapter in front of the Orbiter Docking System to begin their spacewalk shortly after placing their spacesuits on battery power at 12:29 p.m. Central time. Working right on the timeline after recovering the MEEPS, Parazynski and Titov affixed a 121-pound instrument called a Solar Array Cap to the Docking Module for future use by Russian cosmonauts to seal off a suspected breach in the hull of the Spektr Module which was depressurized in the June 25th collision of a Progress resupply ship with the Mir. The most likely location of the breach is underneath the Spektr’s damaged solar array. If Russian flight controllers confirm that suspicion, the cap could be used like a hermetic seal for Spektr to allow additional repair work to be conducted.
Parazynski and Titov wrapped up their work outside Atlantis by testing several components of the Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER) jetpacks they wore which are designed to enable spacewalkers to propel themselves back to safe haven in the Shuttle’s payload bay if they become untethered while working. The two Mission Specialists ended their spacewalk at 5:30 p.m. Central time as they repressurized Atlantis’ airlock to complete the 39th spacewalk in Shuttle program history. It was the fourth spacewalk for the veteran Titov, who conducted three other spacewalks in 1988 as Commander of the Mir. It was Parazynski’s first spacewalk. It was the first time a non-American had conducted a spacewalk from an American spacecraft in U.S. space history.
As Parazynski and Titov worked outside the Atlantis-Mir complex, Mir 24 Commander Anatoly Solovyev and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov installed a new motion control computer in the station’s Core Module, replacing one which has experienced problems in recent months. The installation and checkout of the new computer went smoothly, enabling Russian flight controllers to begin the uplink of fresh software to the device. The Mir’s gyrodynes, which provide automatic attitude control for the station, were spun down during the computer swapout. They are scheduled to be reactivated by tomorrow afternoon, enabling the Mir to regain its own attitude control for Friday’s scheduled undocking of Atlantis.
The newest member of the Mir crew, astronaut David Wolf, conducted scientific experiments and continued his familiarization of his new orbital home while the computer swapout took place onboard the Russian outpost.
About 77 per cent of all items earmarked for transfer between the two vehicles have been moved successfully with all of items expected to be transferred before the hatches are closed between Atlantis and the Mir for the final time Thursday afternoon.
The astronauts are scheduled to begin an eight hour sleep period at 10:34 p.m. Central time tonight and will be awakened at 6:34 tomorrow morning to begin their final full day of joint work with their Russian counterparts.
Atlantis and the Mir are orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 213 nautical miles with all of their systems functioning normally.
The next STS-86 status report will be issued at 8 a.m. Central time Thursday.
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