An American astronaut and a Russian cosmonaut floated outside the Mir space station Saturday on a rare U.S.-Russian spacewalk to search for punctures from the worst space collision ever.
Astronaut Michael Foale and Mir commander Anatoly Solovyov, who was making his 10th spacewalk, were trying to pinpoint the holes on the damaged Spektr module, leaving the actual repair work for a later mission.
The two men began the scheduled six-hour expedition just before 6 p.m. PDT Friday. After exiting the Kvant 2 module, they were moved by a boom to the Spektr, at the opposite end of the space station, which is shaped like a giant cross.
“I can’t see anything yet,” Solovyov said as he examined the Spektr’s radiator, considered a likely site for one or more of the holes. About two hours into the spacewalk, Solovyov was breathing heavily, but said he felt fine.
He used a knife to scrape away coating on the radiator, sending small pieces of debris drifting into space like snowflakes.
“The more (Anatoly) does that, the more the pieces are flying around and the less I can see,” said cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, who was filming the spacewalk from the Soyuz escape capsule.
The American-Russian team, besides looking for holes and videotaping damage, hoped to restore even more energy to the crippled station by realigning at least one of the module’s three undamaged solar panels.
Solovyov, now on his fifth Mir mission, was to do most of the work on the solar panel and search for the holes on the Spektr module.
As on every spacewalk, the main safety hazards were sharp edges on the outside of the station that could rip the spacewalkers’ suits. Any such tear in open space could be fatal.