Originally created 02/22/98

Returning cosmonauts praise Mir, say it's in `excellent condition'

MOSCOW -- The Mir space station might have its flaws, but the past few months have proven it is basically sound and still belongs in orbit, two freshly returned cosmonauts said Saturday.

At a news conference at Star City, the cosmonaut training camp, Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov conceded that Mir was hobbling when they arrived for a six-month mission in August.

The two have been widely credited with bringing Mir back to good health after a string of glitches and near-catastrophes, including an on-board fire and a collision with a cargo ship.

As they worked on the station's problems, "Literally, before our eyes, the station began to work, modules got warm, moisture disappeared," Solovyov said, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

"Naturally, I, as a Russian, believe in our hardware and praise it, but all the American astronauts who came to Mir were also astounded by the excellent condition of the station," he added.

He conceded that Mir has design problems, in particular a heating and cooling system that is prone to rapid wear and tear. He said cosmonauts' complaints about the system led Russian engineers to change the climate control system in a Russian module being built for the soon-to-be-launched international space station.


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