News

Voice of America 4/4/97

MIR AIR-SCRUBBING PROBLEM

BYLINE=BRIAN CISLAK
DATELINE=WASHINGTON
CONTENT=
 
VOICED AT: 

INTRO:  AN AIR-SCRUBBING SYSTEM ABOARD THE RUSSIAN 
SPACE STATION MIR HAS MALFUNCTIONED, FORCING THE RUSSIAN
AND AMERICAN CREW MEMBERS TO RELY ON BACKUP SYSTEMS
TO KEEP BREATHING.  BRIAN CISLAK REPORTS:

TEXT:  THE DEVICE EMPLOYS A CHEMICAL REACTION TO 
REMOVE CARBON DIOXIDE -- C-O-TWO -- FROM THE AIR INSIDE 
MIR.  C-O-TWO IS A PRODUCT OF RESPIRATION, AND EXPOSURE 
TO TOO HIGH A CONCENTRATION OF THE GAS FOR TOO LONG
A PERIOD IN AN ENCLOSED SPACE LIKE MIR CAN BE TOXIC.   

THE PRIMARY C-O-TWO SCRUBBING SYSTEM MALFUNCTIONED
ON  THURSDAY WHEN A LEAK DEVELOPED IN A COOLING
DEVICE DESIGNED TO KEEP THE AIR-CLEANSING DEVICE 
FROM OVERHEATING.  THE SYSTEM SHUT DOWN WHEN
OPERATING TEMPERATURES GOT TOO HIGH.  U-S-SPACE 
AGENCY SPOKESMAN ROB NAVIUS TOLD VOA THAT THE 
CREW HAS IDENTIFIED THE LEAK, AND THAT THE RUSSIAN 
SPACE AGENCY BELIEVES IT WILL BE REPAIRED THIS WEEKEND.

U.S. SPACE AGENCY OFFICIALS SAY THE PROBLEM POSES NO
DANGER TO THE CREW.  AMERICAN ASTRONAUT JERRY
LINENGER AND HIS RUSSIAN CREWMATES ARE NOW USING A 
BACKUP SYSTEM OF LITHIUM HYDROXIDE CANNISTERS TO
CLEANSE THE AIR FOR BREATHING.  THERE IS AN EIGHT
DAY SUPPLY OF THE CANNISTERS ON BOARD MIR.

ON SUNDAY, THE RUSSIANS PLAN TO LAUNCH AN UNMANNED
"PROGRESS" SUPPLY CRAFT TO DELIVER A CARGO OF 
ADDITIONAL AIR-CLEANSING CANNISTERS. THE CARGO CRAFT 
IS EXPECTED TO DOCK WITH MIR ON TUESDAY.

IN A SEPARATE PROBLEM, OXYGEN GENERATORS ON BOARD 
MIR BROKE IN EARLY MARCH.  SINCE THEN, THE THREE CREW
MEMBERS HAVE BEEN USING SUPPLEMENTAL OXYGEN-GENERATING
CANNISTERS SIMILAR TO ONES USED ABOARD AIRCRAFT TO
PROVIDE OXYGEN FOR BREATHING IN EMERGENCIES.  //OPT// 
ONE OF THESE CANNISTERS IGNITED IN LATE FEBRUARY FOR
ABOUT 90 SECONDS, CAUSING A BRIEF FIRE AND HEAVY SMOKE
IN THE STATION, BUT NASA SPOKESMAN ROB NAVIUS SAYS 
THE CURRENT PROBLEMS ON MIR HAVE NO CONNECTION 
TO THE FIRE. //END OPT// 

THE U.S. SPACE AGENCY IS LOOKING INTO A RUSSIAN REQUEST
TO DELIVER A REPLACEMENT OXYGEN GENERATOR WHEN THE 
SPACE SHUTTLE MEETS UP WITH MIR IN MAY.  THE SHUTTLE 
WILL BE CARRYING A PRESSURIZED "SPACEHAB" SCIENCE 
MODULE IN ITS CARGO BAY, AND NASA OFFICIALS HOPE THEY
CAN SQUEEZE THE OXYGEN GENERATOR INSIDE THE MODULE 
FOR THE TRIP TO MIR.  (SIGNED) 

NEB/BC/LWM

04-Apr-97 4:26 PM EST (2126 UTC)
NNNN