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Mir 25/NASA 7 Status Report

Mir 25/NASA 7 Status Report

                 NASA Release for March 27, 1998

                 MISSION CONTROL CENTER, Korolev - U.S. Astronaut Andy
Thomas and
                 his Mir 25 crewmates, Commander Talgat Musabayev and
Flight Engineer
                 Nikolai Budarin, commemorated two important space
anniversaries this week.
                 Tuesday, March 24, 1998, marked two years of continuous
US presence aboard
                 Mir. On March 24, 1996, at 4:30 p.m., Dr. Shannon Lucid
officially became a
                 Mir crew member when she transferred from the Space
Shuttle to the Mir space
                 station. (Dr. Norm Thagard was the first U.S. astronaut
on Mir; he arrived on
                 Mir March 14, 1995, and stayed 116 days in space.)

                 Friday, March 27, 1998, marked an important but solemn
day -- the 30th
                 anniversary of the death of Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. On
April 12, 1961, Gagarin
                 became the first human to escape Earth's atmosphere and
orbit the planet, and
                 April 12th is still celebrated in Russia as
Cosmonautics Day.

                 As Thomas continued his science program, Musabayev and
Budarin began
                 preparation for next week's space walk. On Friday the
crew was scheduled to
                 spend about nine hours in the airlock preparing for the
space walk. Plans called
                 for the cosmonauts to replace old ancillary latches on
the hatch with new latches
                 which were brought up by the Progress resupply ship.
Prior to any space walk,
                 crew activities include a review with Russian ground
controllers of the procedures
                 to be used, a check of their space suits, medical
checks, and a suited dry run of
                 the space walk.

                 Next Wednesday, April 1, the crew will go outside the
space station to reinforce
                 the damaged solar array on the Spektr module. That
space walk had been
                 scheduled for March 3, but was postponed when one latch
on the Kvant-2
                 airlock hatch refused to unlatch. The problem has since
been corrected. The
                 hatch is scheduled to open at 8:20 a.m. EST. The space
walk should last a little
                 under 6 hours.

                 Once the damaged solar array is braced, the crew will
perform four additional
                 space walks to replace the propulsion system for the
Mir's boom jet assembly
                 (known as the "Sofora"). The old propulsion system atop
the boom which rises
                 from the Kvant-1 module has been operating since its
delivery to the station in
                 August 1992, and is almost depleted of fuel. The series
of space walks by
                 Musabayev and Budarin to replace the boom jet assembly
will begin April 6. The
                 space walks will be spaced approximately five days
apart and will last from five
                 to six hours each.

                 Besides preparing for next week's space walk, the crew
performed various
                 maintenance tasks this week. On Wednesday, they
completed repairs on the
                 trace contaminant removal unit. Replacement parts,
including a new valve and
                 charcoal filter, were brought up on the previous
Progress. The crew reported that
                 there was no visible damage to the old charcoal filter
after hot air had accidentally
                 been blown over the unit a few weeks ago.

                 The station's air conditioning system continued to
experience difficulty starting this
                 week, but the crew was able to start it on every
attempt. Russian ground
                 controllers are investigating possible causes of these

                 Meanwhile, Thomas is continuing his scientific research
program. This week he
                 continued an immunity experiment, for which he is
periodically taking blood and
                 saliva samples. This life science investigation is
designed to study and compare
                 the human body's ability to produce antibodies to fight
illness in a microgravity
                 environment with the body's ability to produce
antibodies on Earth. Previous
                 research has indicated that some of the human body's
immune responses appear
                 to be suppressed during long duration space flight.
Understanding the effects of
                 space flight on the human body's immune system may be
important in protecting
                 the health of future space travelers on long duration
flights. Astronauts Shannon
                 Lucid, John Blaha, Jerry Linenger, and David Wolf also
participated in this
                 investigation during their research aboard Mir.

                 Thomas also continued to troubleshoot the Biotechnology
System Co-Culture
                 (COCULT) experiment, designed to grow two different
cell types in order to
                 form three dimensional tissue samples in microgravity.

                 Thomas processed seven samples for the material science
experiment QUELD,
                 the Queens University Experiment in Liquid Diffusion.
This is a joint U.S.,
                 Canadian, and Russian experiment that uses a special
furnace to analyze the
                 phenomenon of diffusion. Diffusion is the slow mixing
of materials by the random
                 movement of molecules of one substance into another.
While commonplace, the
                 physical process of diffusion is not completely
understood. Researchers hope to
                 learn more about this process by studying diffusion in
a microgravity environment.

                 Science investigations by Thomas on Mir are part of 27
studies in the areas of
                 Advanced Technology, Earth Sciences, Human Life
Sciences, Microgravity
                 Research, and International Space Station Risk
Mitigation. The investigations are
                 a combination of experiments performed on previous Mir
missions as well as new

                 Thomas has reached the half-way mark in his mission,
having completed his ninth
                 week aboard Mir and with nine more weeks to go before
completing his mission
                 in early June. He is scheduled to return to Earth
aboard the Shuttle Discovery
                 during the STS-91 docking mission to the Mir. He is the
seventh and final NASA
                 astronaut scheduled to live and work aboard the