US astronaut told she is too short for space
One of the country’s most respected commentators on Russia, the EU and the US, Mary Dejevsky has worked as a foreign correspondent all over the world, including Washington, Paris and Moscow. She is now the chief editorial writer and a columnist at The Independent and regularly appears on radio and television. She is an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Buckingham.
Friday 01 August 1997
Just days before Ms Lawrence, an American, was due to blast off for the crippled space station Mir along with two Russian astronauts, she was stood down because of her height. She has been replaced by the rather taller David Wolf.
The decision came so late that Ms Lawrence had already given a press conference, partly in Russian, in which she had expressed her "big desire" to go to space, her all-American confidence in her ability to discharge her responsibilities, the feasibility of the salvage operation that she and the crew were to perform on Mir, and in the bright future for Russian- American co-operation in space.
It was only hours later that NASA decreed that she would have to be replaced.
Because of the precarious state of Mir, all three astronauts in the new crew will have to be prepared to walk in space to repair the Spektr module.
Usually only two of the three crew members need to be equipped for space- walking. Mir was built by the Russians, to Russian specifications, and anyone who steps or floats outside has to wear a Russian "Orlan" spacesuit that will connect with the Mir technology.
Unfortunately for Ms Lawrence, Russian spacesuits come in a one-size- fits-all (Russians). She would have been floating inside the suit before she even stepped outside. So she had to cede her place.
That, at least, is the story told by the Americans. They said it was a Russian decision; but the Russians seemed confused last night, and claimed they hadn't been told. There was a lingering suspicion that Ms Lawrence was stood down from a prospectively dangerous journey for some other reason.
Ms Lawrence has had bad luck with Mir. She was initially rejected for the programme and, at her press conference, she managed to knock the model of Mir off the table - not the best omen.
Mary Dejevsky, Washington
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...