The American and Russian space agencies on Wednesday rejected the astronaut who was supposed to be the next American to live on Russia’s Mir space station because she’s too short and has never done a spacewalk.
At 5 foot 3, astronaut Wendy Lawrence doesn’t fit into the Orlan Russian spacesuit that crew members will wear during spacewalks to repair damage from last month’s collision with a cargo ship. So NASA said her backup will be sent to the hobbled Russian space station instead.
The backup, David Wolf, now is scheduled to replace compatriot Michael Foale in late September or early October. Wolf had planned to travel to Mir in January.
Lawrence, 38, had been turned down once before for Mir duty because of her height.
Russian space agency officials said she was below their stringent height standards, but she was cleared to return last summer when the requirements were modified.
Lawrence was in Moscow finishing up her training on Wednesday when Frank Culbertson, NASA’s chief of the shuttle-Mir program, notified her of the agency’s decision.
Culbertson said normally only two of the three Mir crew members are trained for spacewalks, and when Lawrence was first accepted for the Mir mission, it was understood she would not have to conduct one.
But NASA said the two space agencies agreed it would be better to have both Russians and the American on board capable of performing spacewalks because of the repairs necessary to fix the module that was ruptured in the June 25 collision with a cargo ship.
NASA will fly Lawrence on the shuttle mission to Mir because of her knowledge of the station’s systems. The launch of Atlantis could be delayed about 10 days to accommodate Wolf’s training.
Wolf, 40-years-old and 5-foot-10, fits in the Orlan suit and has undergone some spacewalk training.
“They’re going to have to accelerate his spacewalk training over the next month to prepare him a little better for it,” NASA spokesman John Lawrence said.
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