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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mir Cosmonauts Fail To Plug Module Leak




An airlock on the Mir space station was still losing pressure Monday despite repair work by two Russian cosmonauts during a spacewalk last Friday.


A spokeswoman at mission control near Moscow said pressure in the airlock on the Kvant-2 module, which failed to close tight after a space walk Nov. 3, had fallen to about three-quarters of normal Earth atmospheric pressure since Friday.


"The leak is less but it's still leaking," deputy flight director Viktor Blagov was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass.


The spokeswoman said the cosmonauts, who tried to cover up a faulty lock on the hatch by closing 10 backup locks in addition to nine functioning main locks, were now concentrating on another spacewalk due Wednesday so any further repair work on the hatch would have to wait.


Commander Anatoly Solovyov, 49, and American NASA astronaut David Wolf, 41, will exit Mir on Wednesday to retrieve NASA experiments placed outside the 12-year-old station.


During a spacewalk Friday night, two Mir-based cosmonauts entered the airlock and inspected the outer hatch, which has been leaking slightly since Nov. 3.


Contrary to ground control's expectations, the problem appeared to be not with the rubber sealing. Instead, one of the 10 main locks on the hatch was found to be out of order, preventing it from sealing hermetically.


The cosmonauts activated 10 more reserve locks and pumped some air in the airlock.


The repair was holding Friday, and the crew entered the airlock without spacesuits to collect some equipment there.


However, mission control said a small pressure decrease was noted Saturday.


During Friday's mission, the two cosmonauts, commander Anatoly Solovyov and flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov, also successfully dismantled from the Kristal module U.S.-made optical monitoring equipment installed there in April 1997, and brought it back inside Mir.


The equipment is due to be picked up by a U.S. space shuttle at the end of January. The American craft will carry Wolf home after a four-month spell in space and deliver Mir's final NASA resident, Australian-born Andrew Thomas.


Solovyov and Vinogradov, who been on Mir since August, will hand over at the end of this month to a new Russian crew.


The leaky Kvant-2 hatch was one of a host of problems, some much more serious, to affect the 12-year-old station last year. The worst was a near-fatal collision with a cargo ship in June in which the Spektr module was holed and which badly damaged Mir's power supplies. These have since been restored.