At last, Foale gets chance to walk in space

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Michael Foale (right), the British-born astronaut aboard the Russian space station, Mir, is to take part in a space walk on Saturday to inspect the damaged scientific module, officials at Mission Control near Moscow said yesterday.

"The cosmonauts will make the sortie through Mir's biggest hatch on the Kvant-2 module, designed especially for spacewalks," said a spokesman.

During the spacewalk, Foale and the Russian commander, Anatoly Solovyov, will look for one or more holes in the exterior of Spektr, which was punctured and lost air when a cargo tug collided with the station on 25 June.

Solovyov and flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov will have to undertake one or more further spacewalks for the actual repairs.

Slow progress in separate on-board repairs to the ailing Mir has prompted Mission Control to postpone the inspection spacewalk, initially planned for tomorrow.

The spokesman said the crew was planning to spend yesterday testing the space-suits they will have to wear on Saturday. Each spacesuit is like a small spaceship, with completely independent life support systems, which have to undergo extensive checks.

The crew has worked over the past week to restore power from the solar panels on Mir's Spektr module. The station is now generating about 80 per cent or more of the power it had before the collision. However, the motors which point Spektr's panels toward the sun are still not working. "We are still working on it," the spokesman said.