Mir has 3-man 'lifeboat' ready
June 25, 1997
Web posted at: 7:41 p.m. EDT (2341 GMT)
In this story:
(CNN) -- Wednesday's collision between Mir and an unmanned
spacecraft raises a vital question about the Russian space
station: How can the crew members aboard escape in the event
of an emergency?
The answer is Soyuz, a Russian three-man craft that can leave
the Mir station quickly and return to Earth within a day.
"There is no need for the shuttle, as the Soyuz can be used
if necessary," NASA spokesman Joel Wells said.
NASA officials said an evacuation of the station was not
In Russia, Mission Control Director Vladimir Lobachyov, after
talking with the three-man Mir crew, said the collision was
"the most serious accident in recent times."
Crew members said they were facing power problems following
Shuttle Atlantis is not scheduled to visit Mir until
September, and the shuttle Columbia, which is being readied
for launch on Tuesday, is not equipped for a Mir docking.
"Atlantis is the only shuttle configured for docking with
Mir," said Wells, adding there were no plans to move up the
launch date of Atlantis.
For a quick getaway, the three crew members aboard Mir would
get fully suited-up, crawl through a hatch and crowd into
Soyuz's descent module -- a snug fit, according to American
astronaut Jerry Linenger.
"It's very difficult to get in," said Linenger, while giving
a tour inside Soyuz during his voyage on Mir earlier this
Linenger and his Russian crewmates had to prepare to abandon
ship twice during his four-month stay on Mir, which ended in
His crew first considered an evacuation during a serious fire
in February. They were again ready to leave in March when an
off-course Progress craft was on a collision course with Mir.
The cargo carrier veered off at the last minute.
Soyuz consists of three modules, and according to NASA, after
Soyuz leaves Mir for Earth, the orbital and the instrument
modules separate from the descent module and are destroyed.
The descent module shoots through the atmosphere and
parachutes to Earth with enough food and gear for crew
members to survive until they are found.
Since Soyuz ferries crew members back and forth to Mir from
Earth, the Soyuz vehicle is replaced on Mir with a newer
version every six months or so, as replacement crews are
NASA spokesman Ed Campion said Wednesday's collision forced
the crew to seal off the damaged Mir module to stop a leakage
of air pressure. But he said the current crew -- British-born
NASA astronaut Michael Foale and Russian cosmonauts Vasily
Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin -- were in no immediate
According to Russian Mission Control, the Soyuz was in no way
harmed during the recent collision, and crew members have
easy access to Soyuz.
Correspondent Ann Kellan and Reuters contributed to this report.
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