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S P E C I A L Repairing Mir

Shuttle Atlantis links up with Mir

Atlantis September 27, 1997
Web posted at: 4:03 p.m. EST (2103 GMT)

JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Texas (CNN) -- The space shuttle Atlantis successfully docked with the Russian space station Mir Saturday, arriving with needed supplies and a new American astronaut.

The successful link up took place just before 4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT) as the two spacecrafts orbited nearly 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

A troublesome computer on board Mir that keeps the station oriented in space -- and which has broken down three times in as many weeks -- performed without problems during Saturday's rendezvous.

As the two spacecrafts got increasingly closer through the day Saturday, their crews chatted by radio in Russian, laughing and joking. As the moment of docking arrived, shuttle commander Jim Wetherbee and pilot Mike Bloomfield fired the shuttle's maneuvering jets and slowed their approach to a near crawl.

As their big day began, the seven-member shuttle crew had been awakened by a recording of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark."

"It's time to do that delicate dance in the dark and dock with Mir," Mission Control said.

Atlantis will drop off 5,000 pounds of gear

docking module

Atlantis will drop off more than 5,000 pounds of repair gear, science experiments and sealant for holes caused by Mir's June 25 collision with a supply ship. Among the new equipment is a new computer to replace the one that has had problems in recent weeks.

Atlantis is also hauling food and water, replenishing the station's dwindling supplies.

On Sunday, American astronaut David Wolf will trade places with Michael Foale, who has been on Mir since May. Wolf a 41-year-old doctor, pilot and engineer, is scheduled to stay on the Russian station for more than four months.

Wolf said he isn't worried about taking up residence on trouble-prone Mir. He says his stay will be no different than any other space flight and that he plans to carry out the mission the same way he does his flying: "Do it carefully and don't cross the line."

"Mir's in excellent condition ... and I'm looking forward to being over there," he said.

Go-ahead not given until final hours


Wolf didn't get the final go-ahead from NASA for his stay until hours before Thursday night's launch. Mounting pressure from members of Congress and others has forced NASA to reconsider allowing Americans to stay on Mir. But NASA officials are sticking with plans to continue with the joint venture with the Russians.

During his tenure on the orbiting station, Foale endured the nearly catastrophic collision and repeated life-support equipment breakdowns, among other calamities.

Besides the collision, Mir has been plagued by numerous problems in the past year, including a life-threatening fire, leaking coolant and the failure of oxygen generators and a carbon dioxide-removal system.

Reuters contributed to this report.

MIR special grfk



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