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NASA Press Briefings - 7/21/97

Culbertson: “The EVA that had been planned for this week, that would have had Mike Foale and Aleksandr Lazutkin doing an internal spacewalk in the transfer node, has been delayed. The Russians had a meeting of their State Commission of Chief Designers this morning at 10 o'clock Moscow time. The decision out of that meeting was to delay that spacewalk until the arrival of the next Soyuz crew, which is scheduled to lift off from Baikonur on August 5. They will dock with the space station Mir on August 7, be up there for about seven days of handover between the two crews, and then Vasily Tsibliev and Aleksandr Lazutkin will return to Earth on about August 14, once all the handover is completed.

“There was to be a French cosmonaut on that mission on behalf of the French Space Agency. That mission has been delayed until probably January 28, though the final decision on that will be made as we go down the road here a little bit. There is a Soyuz scheduled for that date and I assume that they will go into a retraining exercise and replanning to accommodate him during that time period. I believe that this is all an excellent plan. I am in total concurrence with what the Russians have done here. I believe that the calendar was just too challenging for us in order to fit in the preparations for the execution of the EVA and also get ready for the Soyuz' arrival and all the other things that needed to be done before this crew came home. I think it would have been too much of a burden, timewise. There obviously were questions about the margins onboard the Mir, the power margins, the capability of the gyrodynes to control, and I don't believe there's any need to press things at this time. So I believe this is a good plan and I believe we can support it very well. We have asked the Russians to provide us with lists of anything that they would like to add to STS-86. We've been getting that information over the last couple of weeks and we're starting to finalize plans for that in terms of what we take up to support our science program as it will be modified for Wendy Lawrence and also assist them with logistics to support their future spacewalks.

“Right now they're planning on conducting the internal EVA that was planned for this week on about August 20, using Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov. They will do the EVA to recover the power from the Spektr module and hopefully raise the power margins on the Mir so that they can go forward with a good science program for Wendy as well as increase the capability to deal with minor difficulties and also to give them margins during the docking of Progress and Soyuz vehicles in the future.

“They tentatively plan also an external spacewalk on September 3 to do an inspection of the damage site on the Spektr module and just see if they can tell where the hole is, whether it's an easy fix or a difficult fix, and then go on from there. That will be prior to the launch of Atlantis on STS-86, and may give us some information that we could respond to, but actually we will be very close to the mission, so it may be very difficult to make major changes to the manifest or to the plan for the EVA that is currently scheduled for STS-86. So we'll just have to see how things work out through those spacewalks, what they learn, and then both programs will work together to move forward from there.

“The crew right now is in real good shape. I believe that Mike Foale was probably the one most disappointed about the rescheduling of the EVA. He was getting pretty enthusiastic about it and had already begun reviewing procedures and talking to Vasily Tsibliev about the details of that EVA. Any mission specialist I know is always eager to do an EVA and he was beginning to understand this one to the point where he had become very enthusiastic, but he understands the situation and the need to delay it and will be an excellent supporting member for the upcoming activities onboard the Mir before he comes home. “The crews has had a little bit or relief of schedule here in not having to do all the rehearsals and the EVA preps, so they are going through their activities that were scheduled anyway for the docking of the Soyuz, return of their data to Earth, and the wrapping up of their mission. There is, of course, a fairly extensive exercise program required prior to reentry anyway, and that will take up a great deal of their time between now and reentry on August 14.

“Otherwise systems on the Mir are going well. They are back on eight gyrodnes with repair in progress on a ninth and tenth one. There was some damage to a couple of the gyrodynes during the power-down last week and they've had to make repairs to them, but the Mir is controlling very well on the ones that are there, not using very much fuel at all. The power margins are back where they were prior to the inadvertent disconnect of the cable, the Vozdukh is running for CO2 removal, the Elektron is not running, but not needed at this time because they are replenishing oxygen from the Progress that arrived not too long ago. Temperatures are within normal ranges and the crew appears to be resting well and has had several conferences with management and their families over the last few days and, based on my conversations with them and my observations of what's going on, they're very well informed and understand exactly where we're going, and I believe concur fully.

“I brought along reinforcements, if you have more of those hard questions, Paul Dye who will be the Lead Flight Director for STS-86 and the launch of Atlantis along with Wendy to replace Mike Foale, and Greg Harbaugh who is managing the EVA Project Office and has been deeply involved in the plans for this upcoming EVA and all the contingencies that are associated with that. ”

Q: “Why did the Russians make this decision? What did they tell you the reason was? Did you or NASA urge them to take this position after last week or were you ready to press ahead with Mike Foale participating if that's what they wanted to do?”

Culbertson: “We had the normal technical exchange on these types of issues. Whenever something is being evaluated both sides put all the cards on the table of what their margins are, what the limitations might be, what our options are ahead of us, and we had some very frank and open discussions about how we might proceed here. I am totally in concurrence with the path that they took. We were concerned about the schedule and whether it might be compressed or the crew might feel the pressure of time, as well as what the margins might be and what they might hope to gain versus what the risk might be to the station. We had, as I said, very open discussions about that and I think that they made the right decision here.”

Q: “Since they're not going to fly the French cosmonaut, and the reason, in part at least, from what I understand, is they don't have the power for him to conduct his research, how then can you proceed with another American astronaut if the power margins are so narrow? Do you need to see some improvement in that through the spacewalk activities to proceed or is that not a player at this point in the decision you'll make in September about flying Wendy Lawrence?”

Culbertson: “ There are three things to think about here. One is, the French mission was going to be conducted with six people onboard the Mir, which not only puts a drain on the power during the experiment activity, but also just the life-support system to maintain six people for that extended period of time. That was one of our major concerns there. We believe also that if they are able to successfully complete this internal EVA in August that they will increase the power margins and so enable us to conduct a pretty full science for Mir. Right now it's looking like she'll have almost all of the time that she had planned on dedicating to the research program. But I also want to point out that research, though very, very important, is not the only reason that we are conducting operations in space. The fact that we are continuing to learn about how to respond to contingencies as well as how the Russians conduct routine maintenance and how we might do it in the future, how we might respond to these type of things is extremely valuable and we're not about to lose the opportunity to do that.”

Q: “Are there any discussions about, if the Mir should have to be abandoned, of using the space shuttle to provided a controlled reentry?”

Dye: “I don't think I've had any real discussions in that regard. As you know, the people onboard the Mir, the cosmonauts and the astronauts onboard the Mir, have a way home at all times with the Soyuz. We don't have the number of seats onboard the orbiter that we need to bring home the full crew of STS-86 plus the folks onboard Mir. I don't think we'd be looking at that kind of evacuation in that sense.”

Q: “That's not what I meant. I meant, if there wasn't anybody onboard. Say they had to get into Soyuz and abandon it, and then Mir is left up there, say, at the end of August, would we still fly the shuttle up there and possibly put the Mir into a position where it could be a controlled reentry, like Skylab?”

Dye: “I haven't heard any discussions in that regard and it would be a lot of faults in order for us to get to a situation where we'd have to be there. I don't thing that's anything that we've put on our plates so far, and I haven't done any studies in that regard.”

Q: “So there are no plans at this point. Do you know what the Russians are planning to do if the Mir is abandoned? Could it reenter over the U.S.?”

Dye: “I don't know of any plans that they have or what they'd do in that case.”

Q: “Could you discuss a little bit the kinds of equipment that you're looking at taking on the shuttle to Mir in September to help them with the repairs to the Spektr module, either external or internal repairs? Is there a tentative list or a priority list of equipment that you're looking at to help keep the station operational?”

Culbertson: “Overall the requests that we're getting are mainly support of the Mir's systems, like additional batteries. We're carrying a gyrodyne up. Some hardware to support normal operations including the food and the science hardware that we carry. In terms of additional equipment, we have had no specific requests for repair material per se to go up on STS-86. I believe the Russians will attempt to do that on their own on their Progress vehicles in the future, but until they know exactly what the hole looks like and what the repair procedure required is going to be, there's really no need to take a whole lot of hardware except for maybe some basic sealing material. Greg, I don't know if you have anything to add to that.”

Harbaugh: “We have one of our fellows over in Russia right now, Richard Fullerton, who's working directly with the Russians, along with Jerry Miller and Leroy Chow, and essentially we have at the working-troop level a very good relationship with the folks there, in addition to Frank working the top-level programmatic issues. I think they've been very forthcoming in defining what their thoughts are. It's very much a work in progress with regard to STS-86 and the future for Spektr. But I will tell you that there has been some discussion about a cutter of some kind because one of the things they're thinking about is cutting the solar array mast off and I think there is an awful lot that has to happen between now and whenever that should occur for the Russians to satisfy themselves that it's something that needs to be done and is appropriate. But we're looking into providing that capability should we be asked. We haven't been asked, but we're looking at it. The second area is some way to assist them in identifying the leak source. We're looking at the possibility of a remote sensor of some kind, to fly up on STS-86, an infrared detector or a mass spectrometer, that kind of thing that we could use from the orbiter to help the Russians identify the leak path. Again, that's something we're doing based on our working-troop discussions with their folks, that have not been requested at high levels yet. But we're doing everything we can essentially to be prepared should they ask. And then the third thing that we have looked into was some method for sealing a leak. We actually sent a couple of different packages of material to the Russians for the their own testing and assessment. We also in parallel developed a plan to provide a tool for injecting this material, again, if we should be asked. So essentially, our avenue is to plan prudently as far in the future as we could, anticipating what we're hearing from the folks over in Russia on things that they might be interested in that they might take advantage of from our technologies, but there is nothing that's been specifically asked for above and beyond what I've talked about.”

Culbertson: “And if I could clarify one other point, right now we don't see a critical need to recover the Spektr module in order to continue the program. The equipment that's in there, we have figured out ways to work around. The power recovery I think is important, and we're anxious to see that happen, but as far as recovering the Spektr as a habitable module, I don't see that as a strict requirement of the program right now. But the fact that there is the possibility of conducting a repair, which may apply to future operations such as on ISS, I think is a great motivator for our people to look at ways that they would deal with it if this were the International Space Station, and maybe work together to come up with a repair that we could at least verify on orbit, even if we didn't say we're ever going to open that hatch again and use that as living and working quarters. But at least we could verify whether it worked or not, and it might be very valuable experience for us in the future.”

Q: “You talked about having conversations with Mike Foale. What exactly did he tell you about it and what his state of mind?”

Culbertson: “Mike is a great adventurer and a very good team player and he was ready to go out and do the EVA, but he also understands that it just wasn't going to work out at this time, and he has plenty to do right now just keeping up with his program and also assisting his crewmates in their tasks in getting ready for the Soyuz. He told me that he is learning a lot and feels that he's very helpful to the situation up there and he's very happy to be there and wants to stay as long as makes sense, until Wendy arrives, and can hand over to her. He feels that this has been an incredible chance to learn about station operations and to be able to take things away that he can use in the future. He was in very good spirits.”

Q: “Greg, could you explain about the potential of cutting off the mast to the array and what might be done after that?”

Harbaugh: “If the solar array is so severely damaged that leaving it in place would create or provide an additional hazard for future operations, and/or if the intent is to pursue a seal, a leak repair of some kind, there has been some discussion - and again, this is very preliminary and at very low level - of the possibility of removing that solar array. It's a fairly stiff piece of hardware and there are two ways to do it. There is a plate at the base with a bunch of bolts and you either undo all the bolts or you cut the solar array off at the root. We're looking at a cutter that might be used should they formally request it.”

Culbertson: “Again, we haven't identified the necessary requirement to do that, but it is one of the options that may come up in the future. And for everybody's edification, please note that the damaged array is on the opposite side from where the shuttle docks and would received fairly low loads during that time frame.”

Q: “There's been a lot of talk and newspaper articles written about the fact that there's an increased interest in space travel and space exploration and research. Could each one of you comment on personal vignettes that you might have regarding increased interest, how it might be affecting NASA and you in your personal lives?”

Culbertson: “You can imagine how it's affecting our personal lives. The increased interest I think is good. I believe that the space agency is doing very important things that individuals here have worked very hard at and spent their whole careers at accomplishing a lot. And many times it doesn't get recognized. I believe that exploration is a tremendous motivator to young people to work harder and to learn more and to be able to do more with their own lives. And as long as we can show that there are important things to learn here and it is worth working very hard to get to the positions that allow you to work in the space program or go into space, I believe that the exposure is good. I think we've demonstrated that we know what we're doing, that we understand the situation, and that it's important to be problem solvers and not problem avoiders. We teach our small kids to run away from hard times, but when they mature we want them to learn how to face things head on and deal with them and fix what needs to be fixed. Whether its the space program or society, we should all be very aggressive about identifying the problem and then solving and not just running away from it.”

Dye: “I think I can probably comment a little bit. I find when I'm not here working the problems or working the issues associated with all the things that have been going on, I'm answering questions from people who are asking me how things are going on the Mir. I think a lot more people know what the Mir is and what it's all about now that they did in the past, and in that respect that's a good thing for space exploration. I think what we're proving here though is that exploration is a difficult thing at times and it's not so much how you handle everything when it goes right, but how you handle the problems when they come up. For instance, when we are flying the shuttle missions to the Mir, we've done it quite a few times now and we're learning how to be flexible. STS-86 will be flexible. We know that we're going to lift off on a date, with a pretty much full vehicle and that we're going to dock. What we do when we get there, we'll figure that out a little bit closer in. So it's a good lesson in how to be flexible and how to provide the kind of support we're going to need to provide for the International Space Station.”

Harbaugh: “My personal vignette is, my family and I went to the movies last week, and all of the previews, every single one had some sort of space theme, so there is clearly a lot of interest and evolving interest in space out there, and as Paul just pointed out, the obvious lesson from where we are with Spektr right now, and with Mir in general, is that it is a challenging environment. It's tough. It's brutal. Yet we have collectively learned how to maybe peacefully coexist with that environment, and between ourselves and the Russians we've learned a lot, taught each other a lot, and there is an awful lot more we can do in terms of international relationships and pursuing peaceful exploration, and there's a lot more we can gain from a technological standpoint, so the future is bright.”

Q: “The Russians are repeatedly describing this crew as very exhausted and, in fact, gave that as their bottom-line explanation for delaying the EVA. How worried are you about that, since they're not going to be relieved until another couple of weeks? Do you think that their workload should be kept to the bare minimum to alleviate any future mistakes?”

Culbertson: “I think you've seen exactly that. The workload they have is fairly routine. The unusual activity would have been the EVA itself, and that has been removed from their plate, so I think the crew will be under no additional stress, and I believe they'll have a chance to rest sufficiently and get ready for the arrival of the next crew.”

Q: “Do you think from talking to Mike Foale that he is also exhausted as the Russians describe him?”

Culbertson: “I didn't hear any Russians describe Mike as exhausted. I know he's been tired off and on during the hard, long days that they've had to put in, but in a general sense he seems to be fairly relaxed and doing very well. I believe that some days you have hard days and you're tired at the end of the day, but in terms of general fatigue I think Mike is doing great.”

Q: “Last week you said you were skeptical that six men could spent 21 days on Mir given all the power limitations and experiments, etc. What assurances are the Russians giving you that five men on Mir for one full week isn't going to overload the power systems?”

Culbertson: “We have a pretty good understanding on our own of what the load is for these kind of periods in the mission. We're getting very thorough information from the Russians on what their consumable status is, as well as what the power margins are. So we, on our own, are comfortable that five people for seven days is doable. There will be some consumption of a few items, possibly some lithium hydroxide, maybe some of the solid oxygen generator, though the Progress will pump them up pretty far. So we have a pretty good understanding, plus they are sending me some time this week their own assessment of what the margins will be throughout this period, but I believe it'll be so far less that what the load on the system would have been for the 21 days - which technically was doable; the question was could you do much in addition to that - I don't believe we'll have any concerns at all about five people for seven days.”

Q: “You've mentioned that the science goals are certainly one aspect or rationale for continuing the U.S. increments to Mir. Also resupply obviously of the station by the shuttle and of course the experience you've talked about your gaining from dealing with an emergency situation. Can you rank those priorities? Are they three coequal? It sounds like from what you've said the experience you're gaining is number one, the resupply is number two, and the science is number three. Am I off base there?”

Culbertson: “In fact, when Mr. Tommy Holloway led this program at the very beginning, they had four priorities that they listed as the goals of the program and we've advertised those freely throughout the program. The number one was for us to learn to work together and you've got to say that we have certainly been learning lots of things about working together here on an international basis. The second one was to conduct risk mitigation for the station, and what that means is to learn how to operate hardware, people, procedures, processes, in order to support a long-term operation on an international space station. The third priority was to conduct long-duration studies on humans, which we had not been able to do on humans since the Skylab days back in the 1970s. And then the fourth priority, though not the last one by any means because there are lots of other subpriorities below that, was the research program itself. Research takes up most of the day for people when there are not unusual things going on. So because of the sense of time it seems to be the maximum; that's the one people tend to concentrate on and shows the most visible results frequently. But, in fact, all of those are very high priorities, but the number one is to learn to work together in space, and I believe that we are learning even more than we had expected and I think that's good.”

Q: “It sounded like from what you've said all along, communications have been good, and on Friday you were pretty convinced we wouldn't expect a decision until today. And then on Saturday they radioed up to the crew and said the spacewalk was off. Were any of you caught by surprise by that?”

Culbertson: “No. The formal decision was made today. I think it's highly appropriate to talk to the crew about it. There are reporters swarming all over the Mission Control Center over there and they don't have quite the same ability to communicate privately that we do, but obviously decisions had to be made at many levels before you go into the final , formal review, so it's not unusual for people to know how it's going to turn out ahead of time. We weren't surprised by any of it. I think the Russians handled it very tactfully and very appropriately the way they dealt with the crew and informed them, and I believe it all led up to formal endorsement by the State Commission this morning in a very appropriate manner.”

Q: “Greg, you talked about the environment of space being challenging, and when you hear critics talk about how risky this is and Mike Foale should come home and we shouldn't replace him and all that. Do you think this a nation of cowards? Are we getting so risk-averse now that after 30 years of space flight and the billions of dollars we've pumped into becoming operational in space that we're simply unable to deal with these kinds of problems? To what do you attribute all these calls to bring him back?”

Harbaugh: “I think NASA is about daring to do great things and that means stepping out in front and doing what we do very publicly and being willing, being big enough, strong enough at the shoulders to absorb the kind of naysayers and catcalling that often comes when people try to do great things. As far as I'm concerned it's awfully easy to stand at the side and criticize somebody who is trying to do something. It is a lot tougher to go do it. And as one who has been part of a process for some years, where we have gone and done some pretty amazing things, I think you just can't worry about what the naysayers have to say. Maybe the naysayers will come to be believers some day when we continue to succeed.”

Q: “In terms of these EVA contingency plans, cutting off the solar array panel on Spektr, unbolting it or whatever, is that something that would be carried out by the STS-86 crew or would you simply be carrying the equipment up to Mir for the cosmonauts to ultimately do that job?”

Harbaugh: “We're trying to maintain our flexibility, but the reality with the schedule that we're facing is such that I think it's highly unlikely that the STS-86 crew, Titov and Parazynsky, would do much other than possibly prestage some of these tools. Folks are looking at what options we have and what we could do to help, but unless a crew has been trained to climb on the Mir and get to the Spektr work site, I would have some reservations about asking them to do that. The Mir environment is quite a bit different from the shuttle payload bay. So it's not the sort of thing that we would take lightly. We are thinking about looking at and assessing what Titov and Parazynksy can do on STS-86 and will continue to do so, but we're going to do that with the overriding consideration and concern that their safety be maintained. The bottom line is that they may be asked to do some things, but I really expect that it's going to be the cosmonauts that will do the lion's share of the repair work.”

Q: “As a veteran space walker, could you characterize the difficulty of the internal EVA?”

Harbaugh: “That's something we've been thinking about for quite a while now. I think, in a nutshell, it's not that tough an EVA. There are some hazards, and characterizing the hazards was really the challenge and the thing that we've been worrying about. For example, we've been concerned about somebody going inside the Spektr and getting hung up somehow, and being unable to free himself. And we satisfied ourselves after detailed review last week, that in such a scenario the crewmember could release his umbilicals and get himself free. That would put him temporarily in a nonoptimum suit condition, but a perfectly safe suit condition and one that is readily recoverable, so the concern about somebody getting hung up has pretty much been logically dispelled by good engineering analysis. The other thing that there was some concern about was the environment inside Spektr, if there were any materials, for example, that were present that would present a hazard to the crewmembers - leaking batteries, or what have you. And after the safetey community has gone through that analysis, we consider that to be a relatively minor set of concerns, not insignificant, but all controllable. So in essence, I think the EVA was eminently doable, Mike would have done a great job, but as Frank said, we concur that it's prudent to them postpone and let the Mir-24 guys do it.”

Q: “Can you give us an idea of how much of Wendy Lawrence's planned science mission is going to be lost, or how much are you going to have to replan as a result of not having access to the Spektr module?”

Culbertson: “We believe she still has about 80% of her previously planned science available because her emphasis tended to be more in the microgravity area rather than life sciences, and most of the microgravity hardware is in the Priroda. We're looking at adding some additional hardware and replanning a few things, depending on the success of this upcoming internal EVA in August to see what kind of power capability they have. As you're probably aware, much of microgravity requires power to either continuously operate the experiment or maybe operate a furnace, so that's going to be a factor. But there are the back-up experiments that will be available to her. In addition, we have enhanced our ability to train on orbit and prepare for back-up experiments through video and other means and we feel like she will be pretty well prepared to begin a fairly robust program and then we can modify that as necessary through the mission, which I think is also a good example of the type of things that we're learning to do in preparation for ISS because this will always be a factor. An experiment could fail on the very first time you turn it on; you've go to go to a fallback or work on a different way of doing business.”

Q: “Is any consideration being given to actually replacing that damaged solar array in a bid to restore near fuller power to the station?”

Culbertson: “Right now I don't see anybody working very hard on that. That would be quite a way down the road. We do have another solar array onboard the station that has not been deployed yet, but my understanding is it will not fit in the same socket that this one is installed in. It's a different type of mechanism so that's not an option for a direct replacement, but maybe for replacement of one of the older ones in the future to up the power capability. I believe that's a long way in the future if we ever do come to that.”

Q: “Have you received any assurances that when this Progress undocks it's going straight to the Pacific Ocean and will not be used for any redocking tests?”

Culbertson: “No, and in fact I've heard that they might want to redock it, depending on how they reconfigure things with the Soyuz, but if they did it would be done under automatic control. But we'll have discussions on that once I get the full plan from the Russians tomorrow or the next day.”

Q: “What kind of concerns do you have, now that the Mike Foale/Lazutkin EVA has been scratched, that one of the key things is that they could have opened the hatch, found out they needed a left-hand spanner or something else that could have been shipped up on the Soyuz or future spacecraft, and now you don't have that option, and so if Solovyev goes in and does the EVA and finds out he needs a tool, you're back to square one again?”

Culbertson: “What you say is true. That's life.”

Q: “What kind of concerns do you have if the situation remains the way it is right now, there is no way to do a repair, when the STS-86 arrives, what kind of concerns might there be any as far as power or other safety concerns?”

Dye: “ I think we've got sufficient power margins onboard to dock and do the kind of mission that we have in the past. I don't have any concerns that we're not going to be able to get docked and deliver whatever supplies the Mir needs. Obviously putting the EVA off a ways means that the decisions on what kind of things you might want to carry are going to be out there a little bit farther, a little bit closer to the STS-86 launch, which can make it more difficult to build up anything if you have to build up something special, but part of the key is being flexible, and I don't think that we're going to have any problems getting docked and staying docked and doing the kind of mission that we'd envisioned in that regard.”

Culbertson: “If I can add to that real briefly, I may have given you too short an answer previously. If they discover something on August 20, which is what they would have discovered on July 24, we've actually got more time between then and the launch of STS-86 than we would have had to get anything to the Soyuz for taking up to the Mir, so we actually are in better shape to be able to respond to a request, but we'd be using the shuttle instead of the Soyuz, but that's all part of our joint partnership.”

Q: “What about attitude control during the docked period? I understand the shuttle does the attitude control for the stack most of the time, but I assume it'd be much more complicated to point the solar arrays at the Sun if you don't have the solar array drive electronics working, stuff like that.”

Dye: “Actually, it's not that much more difficult. We have flown a tremendous number of attitudes with the shuttle and Mir. Obviously there are two basic types, inertial or gravity-oriented. But each flight brings its own challenges. We work the attitude time lines quite heavily and we work them quite late. As a matter of fact we change them in flight when we discover what's working and what's not. I've looked at that with my pointers and the folks look at power profiles, and we have so much experience with the Mir now that we have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't. So I really don't foresee any problems with that.”

Q: “I'm assuming that the 24th Soyuz obviously is going to go to the +X Kvant-1 port. Will they move that to the other node, the -X mode for the EVA so they'll have that same safe-haven environment, or is there any talk about leaving Mike Foale in the Base block while they do the EVA, and in that case how would they get back if there's a problem repressurizing?”

Culbertson: “I haven't heard their resolution on that either. Both options are open to them. They actually prefer to have the Soyuz at the transfer node end and the Progress at the Kvant-1 end and I know that at some point in the mission they were planning to move it from where it will dock initially around to the other end, but I'm not sure when that will occur, whether it'll be before or after the EVA.”

Q: “Have you heard any discussion about the half dozen or so EVAs the 24 crew has planned? Would any actually repairs of Spektr be for a subsequent crew. In other words, is there any chance these guys would actually try to seal and repressurize, or are they pretty much just inspections and that sort of thing at this point?”

Culbertson: “I believe they would like to do repairs if they can figure out what needs to be done and have enough information. There's a Progress scheduled for October 1, so after their initial inspection and any information we might be able to provide them during STS-86, they could probably respond to and take up repair materials if they in fact to decide to go that way. So I believe they would like to at least make an attempt at the repair. It's just going to take some time to do that.”

Q: “Observers as well as your own Mir astronauts have pointed out the importance of having productive work to do on a space station. Do you feel Mike is going to have enough productive work to do to keep himself occupied between now and the middle of September?”

Culbertson: “I guess it depends how you define productive. Mike told me he has barely had time to rest during the work day and he's welcomed the days off, even though his science program has been curtailed quite a bit. I believe they're all doing productive work. I know in my own house, if fixing the leak in the roof is what I've got to do, that's pretty productive, and that's what they've been working on.”

Q: “If you had to, what's the quickest you could get STS-86 up and going and get there fast if you had to?”

Dye: “We could probably accelerate by a few days. Of course, the longer you wait, the harder it is to accelerate because the particular schedule in the last few weeks prior to launch is pretty much carved out. I haven't heard any really impetus or reason why we would need to accelerate STS-86. It just doesn't seem to be required. But we could probably move things up a couple of days if we had to, although that's not what we're looking at.

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty