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Shuttle Unloads Cargo, Astronaut At Space Station Endeavour Plans Thursday Departure; New Cosmonauts To Arrive Saturday

The crews of the U.S. shuttle Endeavour and Russia’s Mir space station rushed Tuesday to finish a massive cargo exchange as they prepare to part company.

The crews planned to swap more than 7,400 pounds of supplies, including water, food, clothing and equipment, such as a new air conditioner and guidance system computer.

“We’ve managed to transfer just about everything,” Endeavour astronaut Jim Reilly, who is supervising the effort, said at midday. “Everything has been going really smoothly with the joint efforts between our two crews. We’ve got over 1,000 items transferred, and we’re just cleaning up the list now.”

The crews of the two spacecraft plan to begin closing the hatches that divide them this afternoon.

Endeavour is scheduled to depart Mir on Thursday. The spacecraft joined in orbit Saturday afternoon.

As of Tuesday, 13 containers of water, each weighing about 100 pounds, had been forwarded to Mir from Endeavour. The shuttle crew plans to furnish three more before separating from Mir.

Other high-priority items already delivered to the Russians were a pair of large components to repair the station’s air-conditioning system, which helps to regulate the humidity and temperature. Spare components for Mir’s guidance system computer also were delivered.

Earlier, Endeavour astronaut Andy Thomas joined cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov on Mir, where he will live and work for the next four months. The last of seven Americans assigned to live and work on the 12-year-old space station, Thomas replaces astronaut David Wolf.

The two men huddled Tuesday so that Wolf could counsel his colleague about Mir.

“I’ve learned a lot about how these cosmonauts like to live, and I’ve tried to pass that on to Andy,” Wolf said.

Meanwhile, the outpost promises to be busy during the next few days.

Shortly before Endeavour casts off Thursday at 11:56 a.m. EST, the Russians will launch their own replacement crew to Mir: Nikolai Budarin, Talgat Musabayev and guest French astronaut Leopold Eyharts.

Early Friday, a trash-filled Progress cargo capsule will be cast free of the outpost, eventually to burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The new Soyuz crew should reach Mir at midday Saturday, a few hours before Endeavour returns to Earth.

“We have looked at all of the traffic management concerns,” said Phil Engelhauf, NASA’s lead flight director for the mission. “It’s a manageable problem. We think we have that all well in hand.”


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