Originally created 01/19/98

Russian cosmonauts find possible cause of Mir's hatchway leak



MOSCOW -- Two cosmonauts entered a leaky hatchway in the Mir space station Sunday to determine how to stop oxygen from seeping out of the chamber, a Russian news agency said.

Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov pumped oxygen into the hatchway and entered it wearing their normal flight suits, the Interfax news agency quoted Mission Control spokesman Vsevolod Latyshev as saying.

The cosmonauts filmed some mechanical damage to two of the locks on the hatch and transmitted the footage to ground controllers for analysis and guidance on how to proceed with repairs, Interfax said.

Footage beamed back from a spacewalk Thursday clearly showed an air leak from the hatchway on the space outpost's Kvant-2 module, with a white residue visible around the rubber seal that encircles the hatch.

The broken hatchway is more inconvenient than serious, forcing the crew to use a smaller adjacent compartment to put on and take off their bulky suits for spacewalks.

During the spacewalk Thursday, Solovyov and U.S. astronaut David Wolf tried to seal the hatch more tightly. They fastened the nine main locks and 10 additional locks.