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Science & Exploration

N° 8–1996: Second spacewalk for ESA astronaut

2 February 1996

European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter is to step into space for a second time during his 180-day mission aboard the Russian Mir space station. In October last year, Reiter became the first ESA astronaut to perform a spacewalk, when he installed a European experiment outside the station, as part of the EUROMIR 95 mission.

The second spacewalk is scheduled for 8 February; it will start at approximately 15:00 hrs (CET) and could last till 20:30 hrs. Its purpose is to recover scientific samples from the European Space Exposure Facility (ESEF) that Reiter installed during his first outing.

Reiter will bring back two cassettes which have been collecting natural cosmic dust and man-made space debris since 21 October. The clam-like cassettes can be opened and closed by remote control from inside the station. One has remained open almost throughout the mission, and the second is opened only when the Earth passes through the trail of dust left behind by comets. Both compartments were briefly closed to eliminate pollution from the arrival and departure of visiting spacecraft, the US space shuttle and the Russian Progress cargo craft. The cassettes will be closed for the final time just before the spacewalk.

Accompanied by his commander, Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko, Reiter will move from one end of the Mir complex to the other, a distance of some 25 metres. The pair will use the 'Strela' device, a manually operated telescopic arm, to reach the work site. After leaving Mir by the airlock of the Kvant-2 module, Gidzenko will make his way along the arm to the point where it is attached to the core module. From here the cosmonaut can operate Strela using crank handles.

Reiter and his equipment will ride at the end of the arm from Kvant-2 to the far end of the Spektr module, where the ESEF is located. Gidzenko will then climb along the arm to join Reiter at the Spektr module. The two men will need to move about three metres around the module to reach the ESEF apparatus. After checking that the cassettes are fully closed, Reiter will manually lock them to ensure they remain airtight and remove them from their housings.

Space scientists are eagerly awaiting the chance to study the precious contents of the two cassettes. The results of the experiments should provide a better understanding of the composition of the microscopic debris that clutters low Earth orbit. This information is important for the designers of the international space station, which will have to withstand constant bombardment by these tiny particles. Scientists are particularly keen to learn how much of the debris is man-made and how much naturally occurring cosmic dust. The contents of the cassettes may also offer scientists the first opportunity to study cometary material in the laboratory. Reiter will carry the experiment cassettes with him when he returns to Earth on 29 February.

From the many television and voice transmissions to Earth, Reiter has appeared to be in very good spirit and at ease aboard the Russian space station, his home and workplace since 5 September 1995. A new crew is scheduled to be shipped to Mir on 21 February.


On 8 February the EVA activities (audio link only) can be followed from ESA-EAC in Cologne and DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen. Media representatives wishing to attend in either place should call the Public Relations Office of the EAC (Ms. Martine Caparros), tel. +49 2203 60 01 41.

Moscow-based media representatives can follow the EVA events (audio link only) from the TsUP Mission Control Centre in Kaliningrad, near Moscow. For further information and accreditation please call the ESA Permanent Mission in Moscow (Ms. Ludmilla Lazareva), tel. 095 928 7529.

Note for TV networks only: - New video material on EUROMIR 95, with spectacular in-flight shots, is now available upon request. Fax back the attached from if you want to receive your Betacam cassette.

- Video material from the EVA might be available on 8 February as from 23:00 hrs only (being possibly down- linked from Mir about two hours after Reiter returns inside Mir). The video material could be subseqeuntly distributed -upon request- via the VBN link from DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen or from the "Sternpunkt Frankfurt". For further information please contact the Public Relations Office of DLR in Oberpfaffenhofen (Dr. W. Schambeck), tel. + 49 8153 282 855.