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Soviet modular space station.

Soviet modular

space station

A new Soviet space station, described as the primary building block of a permanently manned orbital complex, was launched into orbit on Feb. 20 from the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan. Called "Mir," the Russian world for peace, the new facility includes six docking ports to accommodate a variety of expansion modules, cargo transports and visiting manned spacecraft.

The station was sent aloft without a crew, but cosmonauts will be sent up "after it is run in outer space," according to Alexei Leonov, former cosmonaut and now chief of the Soviet cosmonaut training center. The initial crew will return to earth after a brief period of checking out the station's systems, to be followed by a period of unmanned operation and later a succession of crews working perhaps on a rotating basis.

Creature comforts are said to be improved over past Soviet stations, such as the Salyut 7 facility still in orbit (it was launched in 1982). Individual cabins, though small, are each equipped with a desk, an armchair and a sleeping bag. The main staff compartment, according to the government newspaper Izvestia, offers a built-in dining buffet, a food-warming device and exercise equipment, as well as windows on all sides including the "floor," through which the crew can observe the earth more easily.

Mir is also said to offer greatly increased use of automation, including completely automated operation, a capability lacking on Salyut 7. A variety of modules are to be sent up later for a variety of purposes, such as astrophysics, biology and medicine, and materials processing.

Mir, according to the Soviet news agency Tass, is "a base module for assembling a multipurpose, permanently operating complex." Says Leonov, "Practical cosmonautics has now entered a new stage: the beginning of a transition from research and experiments to large-scale production activities in outer space."

Meanwhile, U.S. space station plans, though still being strongly pushed by the administration, are in the same state of flux that has affected the entire U.S. manned space program -- and even some of the unmanned part -- following the explosion of the shuttlecraft Challenger.
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Author:Eberhart, Jonathan
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 1, 1986
Previous Article:Monopole, maybe.
Next Article:SPOT satellite launched.

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