November 13, 1997 in Nation/World

Mir Hatch Again Leaking Oxygen

Vladimir Isacehnkov Associated Press

A hatch on the Mir space station that the crew thought it had fixed was leaking oxygen again Wednesday, but Russian officials said the problem was minor.

“It’s not dangerous and doesn’t pose any serious inconvenience to the crew,” said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Russia’s Mission Control.

The leak began when cosmonauts failed to properly seal the hatch separating outer space from the docking chamber when they returned from a spacewalk on Nov 3.

The chamber is closed off from the rest of the station, so the resulting loss of pressure in the docking chamber did not affect other parts of the Mir. The space station has been plagued by mishaps for much of the year.

When cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov again ventured into space last Thursday, they found a white powderlike residue on the edge of the hatch. On their way back, they removed the substance and installed several additional clamps to make sure the seal on the hatch was airtight.

The crew pumped oxygen into the chamber last Sunday, and the pressure held for two days before falling again late Tuesday.

Space officials remain uncertain about the cause of the leak and the nature of white residue. Solovyov and NASA astronaut David Wolf are to examine it during the next spacewalk, set for Dec. 5.

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