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S P E C I A L Mir:   Mission off Course

Too-tiny astronaut bumped from Mir mission

Mir managers July 31, 1997
Web posted at: 3:39 p.m. EDT (1939 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For want of a smaller spacesuit, Wendy Lawrence apparently won't be entering the exclusive club of U.S. astronauts who have made extended stays on the Russian space station Mir.

Lawrence, who was already rejected once for Mir duty because of her 5-foot-3 stature, can't get a good fit in the spacesuits Russians are planning to use in upcoming spacewalks to repair the battered station.

NASA announced Thursday that Dr. Dave Wolf, and not Lawrence, would replace U.S. astronaut Michael Foale aboard Mir in September.

"Our first preference would have been to see Lawrence qualify," said Frank Culbertson, the director of the NASA shuttle-Mir program.

Lawrence would have needed to wear a Russian spacesuit if she had been asked to help repair the ailing station.

"As we began to look at the way the mission was shaping up ... it became apparent that we would be wise to respond to the reality of the situation," Culbertson said.

The shuttle mission to replace Foale will be delayed for about 10 days so Wolf -- who measures 5 foot 10 -- can complete mission training, pushing the launch date to September 28.


"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," a NASA press statement said.

However, Lawrence will continue her training with Wolf in Star City, Russia. And she will accompany him on the September shuttle mission, acting as a backup in case Wolf falls ill or is injured. She would only be involved in science experiments, not spacewalks, if she were left aboard Mir.

Speaking from the Russian space agency, Culbertson said that while Lawrence is disappointed at not being able to go as planned, "she is happy that she will at least get a space flight out of it and will be able to participate in the activities on the Mir, and I think is enthusiastic about helping Dave get ready."

"'Frank, I totally understand. If I were in your position I would do the same thing,'" Culbertson said Lawrence told him.

Wolf had been scheduled to go to Mir next January as the prime crew member for the last U.S. long-duration mission on Mir. NASA said that Dr. Andrew Thomas, currently training in Russia, was a likely candidate to take Wolf's place on that mission, because he had already been training as Wolf's backup for that mission.

"We're still evaluating when to start Andy on the EVA (spacewalk) training," said Culbertson. "He's in the middle of other training activities right now, and we need to evaluate one thing versus the other."


Mir: Mission off course

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