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The View from Space: Return to Spekter

In this column:

By John Holliman

holliman September 9, 1998
Web posted at 10:01 AM ET

(CNN) -- If the Russians are preparing to abandon Mir next June, why are they taking another spacewalk inside the damaged Spekter module?

The two Mir cosmonauts, Gennady Padalka and commander Sergei Avdeyev, are going to make the internal spacewalk into Spekter on September 15. Their orders are to try to repair wiring to a steering motor for one of the Spekter solar panels.

You'll remember one of those panels was destroyed by the collision in space back in June 1997. The other three panels are working to generate much of the station's electricity, but the motors that orient the panels to the sun are not working perfectly. Ground managers believe that the pointing system cables attached by cosmonauts in previous space walks have come loose and need to be replaced.

NASA gets 'keys' to space station

NASA held a ceremony last week to accept the symbolic "keys" to the first American-built piece of the new space station. The "keys" are in fact a series of huge wrenches, identical to those that will be used by space walkers to attach the Unity node to the Russian-built Zarya, or Sunrise, module. Despite continued worry about Russian participation in the station, managers say publicly they're on track to launch Zarya on November 20 from Baikonur, Khazakstan, and to send Unity up to be attached by astronauts on December 3.

Glenn-mania going strong

NASA says public interest in the John Glenn launch on Discovery scheduled for October 29 is tremendous. Not a surprise to you, of course. Requests for media passes are more than four times the normal rate, and the pre-launch parking passes that give visitors access to the launch from a causeway close to the shuttle were all given out this month. Usually, these passes are available as late as two weeks before launch.

CNN's coverage plans are coming together. Our whole space team will begin live daily coverage four days before liftoff. Walter Cronkite has been studying research material for more than two months to get ready for his commentator's role for the launch, and he tells me he's raring to go as his old friend Glenn gets his second mission into space.

Catch a shooting star

Looking ahead to November, in addition to the first launch of space station hardware, there will be a spectacular chance to see shooting stars for much of the month. The Leonid meteor shower will be amazing to view from down here, and in space, preparations are being made to protect satellites and the Hubble Space Telescope from any damage from the dust storm.

Experts predict we'll be able to see something once a second when the Leonid storm peaks November 17. This meteor shower peaks every 33 years, and this is the peak for the next one-third century. People who saw this shower in 1833 said it looked like all of heaven was on fire.

Anyone for isolation?

Last week, we talked about the Russian isolation tank experiment planned for next year. I foolishly decided to hold onto the name and address of the people to whom you could volunteer, because I figured, who would want to travel to Russia to live in an isolation booth for 240 days?

In response to the hundreds of you who wrote asking, here's what to do: write to Yevgeny Dyomin, Institute for Biomedical Problems, Moscow, Russia. Volunteers must be between 30 and 50 years old at the time of the test and must be fluent in English.

John Holliman's column appears on Wednesday.

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