|Российская наука и мир|
(по материалам зарубежной электронной прессы)
На общем собрании РАН Юрию Осипову была вручена золотая медаль за достижения в области математики. Кроме того, на собрании было избрано 9 новых членов Академии - женщин, что является беспрецедентным случаем. Обсуждался также вопрос о новом соглашении с Государственным комитетом по имуществу о том, что Академия может оставлять себе деньги от сдачи в аренду собственности, данной ей государством.
A two-day general meeting of the Russian Academy of Sciences awarded a gold medal to the academy's president, Yuri Osipov, for his achievements in mathematics. It also welcomed the news that the latest elections brought nine women members - an unprecedented number - into the academy.
* * *
The meeting debated the implications of a new agreement with the state property committee, allowing the academy to keep for its own use the money it earns by leasing property given to it by the state. In a separate move, the academy decided to take responsibility for managing and reaping the financial rewards of - the sale of rights to inventions produced in its laboratories.
По неофициальным сообщениям из Москвы ожидается, что Министерство по науке и технике присоединят либо к Министерству образования, либо сделают одним из отделов Министерства экономики. Обе идеи воспринимают как часть проекта Б.Ельцина сократить государственный аппарат.
Russia's Ministry of Science and Technology is likely to lose its autonomous status, according to unofficial reports from Moscow. The ministry is expected to be linked either with the Ministry of Education or made a department in the Ministry of Economy. Both ideas are understood to be part of President Boris Yeltsin's drive to reduce the state's civil-service apparatus.
* * *
There are two candidates to head Russia's science programme. One is Mikhail Kirpichnikov, head of the department of science and education in the present cabinet and recently elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences. The other is Ivan Bortnik, director of the foundation for promoting small enterprises in science and technology, and a former deputy science minister.
Российские ученые написали письмо в Федеральную службу безопасности в защиту своих коллег В.Бородина и М.Галактионова из Института акустики в Москве, которые якобы передали государственные секреты иностранной фирме. В.Бородин, которого даже не пригласили на расследование, сказал, что детали его исследовательской работы были опубликованы в трудах института в 1995 г. В прошлом Институт акустики был одним из самых процветающих в России научных центров и финансировался Министерством обороны. Но в 1994 г. он оказался на краю бедности.
Dozens of prominent Russian scientists have written to the Federal Security Service in support of their colleagues Vladimir Borodin and Mikhail Galaktionov, of the Institute of Acoustics in Moscow, who could be accused of passing state secrets to a foreign company. The scientists claim the information had already been published.
* * *
Security service officers searched the institute laboratory headed by Borodin and found scientific reports prepared for the US Lockheed Sanders Corporation that had not been authorized by the institute. Nikolai Dubrovsky, the institute's director, launched an inquiry that concluded that the reports should not have been passed to the company.
But Borodin, who was not invited to participate in the inquiry, says that details of his research on which the reports were based had been published in the institute's proceedings in 1995.
The Institute of Acoustics used to be one of the most prosperous research centres in Russia, generously financed by the military. But in 1994 it suddenly found itself on the verge of poverty. Borodin tried to save his department by entering a contest announced by Lockheed Sanders for Russian scientists. They were invited to collaborate in developing a system to protect oil derricks in shallow waters from damage by submarines.
Dubrovsky prohibited Borodin's lab from taking part in the contest, but Borodin and Galaktionov decided to enter as private individuals. They won the competition and started the research. Later, when they needed money for experiments but could not guarantee successful results, Lockheed terminated the contract.
Dubrovsky has not explained why the work is considered secret. But A. Luchinin, a specialist in hydro-acoustic protection systems who is not connected with the acoustics institute, told the inquiry that the work does not contain secrets. The same conclusion was reached at a seminar held by the Russian Academy of Sciences last year.
Borodin says: "The worst thing that could happen is that Galaktionov will leave science. He is now having to work for a commercial firm. Galaktionov's institute salary is 255 rubles (US$42) a month, but he needs to pay for expensive medical treatment for his child, who underwent a complex operation in France when Galaktionov worked there."
The operation was done free of charge after his French colleagues appealed to the then President François Mitterrand. "But now Galaktionov is in Russia, where the authorities are concerned about keeping secrets, not people",- says Borodin.
Российские ученые все еще ждут день зарплаты.
Scientists working for the Russian Academy of Sciences last week picketed the offices of Russia's central bank and the Ministry of Finance, demanding payment of their salaries for February and March. The government had transferred the funds to the Moscow National Bank, but the bank was declared insolvent last month, and all accounts have been frozen.
* * *
Vladimir Zaitsev, an official from the federal treasury department, has promised to transfer funds to another bank, Rossiysky Credit. He says that the scientists should receive the money before the end of April, and that Tatyana Nesterenko, head of the federal treasury, has agreed to pay the scientists immediately.
Российские студенты готовят акцию протеста против реформы в области образования, которая может подорвать систему высшего образования в целом.
Students have launched a nationwide protest against proposals for university reform by Russia's minister of education, Alexander Tikhonov. They say the reforms could lead to a steep fall in the number of graduates and a significant increase in students' costs.
* * *
The Russian Association of University Students Trade Unions has sent an official note of protest to Tikhonov, President Boris Yeltsin and Gennagy Seleznev, the speaker of the Duma (the lower chamber of the Russian parliament).
The association has 2.6 million members, 70 per cent of Russia's student population, and plans to hold a nationwide protest that is likely to affect public opinion.
Last year the streets of the major university towns, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Tula, saw local demonstrations, but these were little more than the traditional protests against the usual difficulties faced by students.
This time, the students argue that the reforms threaten to undermine the whole higher education system. Their action could paralyse cities and block federal highways.
"We will try to avoid extremism, but cannot guarantee order," said Mikhail Mirsky, deputy chairman of the student association. "Tikhonov has created a scheme that could lead to the total annihilation of Russian universities. He will only be helping students who belong to rich families. The number of students paid for out of the state budget is to be cut by 10 per cent."
Mirsky points out that these changes are taking place as the price of accommodation is soaring, and students must for the first time pay for textbooks. "We predict that within three to four years the number of students will have fallen by 40 to 50 per cent, at a time when the government increasingly needs graduates," he says.
Tikhonov, son of the former Soviet prime minister Nikolai Tikhonov, has said he intends to solve the growing problems of Russian higher education by "searching for resources outside the state budget".
For example, he is suggesting that universities should be able to lease buildings to private companies. But he also wants a reduction in the number of universities, the length of courses - from six to four years - and the ratio of lecturers to students. The student association complains that such moves will inevitably lead to widespread corruption and to campuses being occupied by businessmen.
Бюджет российской науки "защищен от сокращения".
Sergei Kirienko, Russia's acting prime minister, promised in a meeting with the presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences last week that scientific research will receive the public funding allocated to it in the approved budget "without any reductions".
* * *
Kirienko, whose nomination is currently in dispute between president BorisYeltsin and the Duma - the lower house of the Russian parliament - also said the cabinet will pay special attention to the commercialization of scientific results. "We all need to know how much of the money earned belongs to a scientist, how much to his institute, and how much to the state," he said. The Ministry for External Economic Relations and Commerce has been asked to look into the matter.
Once elite research bastions, the 70-odd scientific towns scattered throughout Russia now struggle to sustain the scientists who have stayed to eke out a living. But a bill in the Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, could make that struggle harder: It would end an exemption for the scientific towns from paying property and land taxes.
* * *
After World War II, open towns like Siberia's Academgorodok and closed weapons cities like Arzamas-16 near the Volga River sprang up, skimming the cream of the Soviet scientific establishment. They provided access to housing and consumer goods unavailable to most people and, for Jews and other minorities, the chance to work outside politically oppressive Moscow (Science, 15 December 1995, p.1753). But over the last decade, the towns have lost nearly all their perks and, because many are isolated, have struggled to attract new businesses. To help their plight, the Supreme Soviet in 1992 passed a law exempting them from paying taxes on buildings and associated lands.
A new tax bill would eliminate these advantages-although experts sharply differ on the ramifications. German Zagaynov, head of the National Association of State Scientific Centres in Moscow, says the annual real estate tax bill for each institute would rival its yearly budget. Not true, counters science ministry official Yuri Lebedev, who calls Zagaynov's fears "greatly exaggerated."
The Russian constitution, he says, sets the property tax for a research institution at 0.1% of its state-assessed value. Most institutes in research towns should be able to foot that bill without a problem, he predicts.
There's still a chance to work out a compromise before the legislation is voted on, perhaps as early as next week, says Vladimir Lapin, vice president of the Union of Research Towns. His association and Zagaynov's are each preparing proposals for modifications to the tax code. Both declined to go into detail until after the Duma receives their proposals next week.
Едва ли есть другие институты, название которых звучит более зловеще - Лаборатория ядерного оружия Челябинск-70. Но в настоящее время лаборатория производит компоненты для нового вида протезов ступни, которые обещают намного облегчить жизнь инвалидов.
Марк Питкин - российский изобретатель протеза - обнаружил, что действие ступни можно восстановить при помощи круглых шарниров и лент из очень прочного эластичного материала. Испытаниями таких материалов и занимаются в лаборатории. Проект финансируется правительством США.
There can be few research institutes more sinister-sounding than the Chelyabinsk-70 Nuclear Weapons Laboratory, but it has now turned its hand to making amends for one of the Cold War's ugliest legacies - the spread of landmines and the injuries they cause.
* * *
In a co-operative project linking Russian and American defence scientists, Chelyabinsk-70 is producing components for a new kind of prosthetic foot that promises greatly to improve the lives of amputees.
Existing prosthetics make no attempt to mimic the action of a real joint, using pin joints rather than the cup and ball arrangement common in the body. Mark Pitkin, the Russian inventor of the new foot, found that the action of the foot when walking could be recreated with a ball joint surrounded by bands of high-strength elastic material. However, it was still difficult to initiate the stepping motion.
The solution lay in finding new materials for the bands that hold the foot together, and this is where the Russian nuclear scientists come in. Their expertise in materials science, stress analysis and computer simulation makes them ideal for the job.
Pitkin, now a professor at Tuft's Medical School, Boston, showed his device to Dr Mort Lieberman at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. Lieberman told Pitkin of a US Government programme which funds non-military work for underemployed Russian nuclear scientists.
Now the US Energy Department and the National Institute of Health both send cheques to the Russian base.
Lieberman, who once worked on mine detection and clearance, acknowledges that not all participants have the same motives. "For the Department of Energy", he says, "this is not a health project. It's a nuclear non-proliferation project."
США советует русским держаться подальше от программы вооружения Ирана, иначе они рискуют потерять миллионы долларов технической помощи.
London (AP) - A number of Russian research agencies have been warned by the US State Department that they risk losing millions of dollars worth of technology assistance if it is shown that their researchers have been helping Iran's missile programme.
* * *
A department spokesman last week denied a report in USA Today that a "black list" had been drawn up of about 20 such agencies considered ineligible to receive support from the US government because of such involvement. But he confirmed that the government had compiled "informal lists of entities where we have concerns that they might be involved in proliferation activities".
The United States spends around $50 million on programmes designed to steer Russia's weapons scientists towards non-military research.
Among projects the newspaper claimed have been denied US funding is one at the Baltic State Technical University in St Petersburg to apply rocket motor technology to the high-temperature destruction of chemical waste.
Иран купил 4 ядерные боеголовки у Казахстана.
Iran acquired four nuclear warheads from a former Soviet republic in the early 1990s, an Israel newspaper reported yesterday.
* * *
The report in the Jerusalem Post was based on secret Iranian government documents handed to Israel recently and "deemed authentic" by US experts. It bears out news reports in 1992 that Iran received enriched uranium and up to four nuclear devices from Kazakhstan with the help of the Russian underworld.
One document cited by the paper said the warheads were stored in a military base near Teheran, and that Russian experts were called in to fix the safety mechanisms on some of them. Another document, dated April 3, 1992, refers to an impending test-firing of a prototype of a solid fuel missile called Zalzal 300, believed to be a modification of the Chinese M-11 missile Israel fears that the Iranian nuclear programme is advancing and a new Iranian ballistic missile with a 780-mile range, built with Russian technology, could become operational within months.
Запад опасается ядерного терроризма.
The United States' decision to fly 5.1kg of enriched uranium and waste from Georgia to Scotland for reprocessing highlights a massive but little-known effort in the West to contain anarchy in the former Soviet nuclear industry.
There are three causes for concern:
- Ample supplies of weapons-grade nuclear material may fall into the hands of rogue would-be nuclear states such as Iran, Libya or Iraq.
- The thousands of highly qualified but ill-paid nuclear technicians may sell their services to these states.
- The vast quantities of nuclear waste literally lying around northern Russia may cause an ecological disaster.
The American operation in Georgia resembles the removal from Kazakhstan in 1994 of 600kg of enriched uranium to the US. The small reactor near Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, was a special cause of concern because of that country's instability. The president, Eduard Shevardnadze, has survived two assassination attempts. If he died, it was feared that the fuel would, in the words of Madeleine Albright, US Secretary of State, "fall into the wrong hands".
The Georgian reactor attracted attention because it is not subject to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. An agreement to carry out inspections has been signed, but so far not ratified, by the Georgian parliament.
The other non-Russian republics are all subject to international inspection, which monitors the quantity of nuclear material and the conditions of storage.
Russia, as a recognised nuclear power, is not subject to inspection as it is deemed to have an interest in stopping other countries acquiring the secrets of the bomb.
The Atomic Energy Ministry insists that it has never lost any significant quantities of uranium, but these assurances are not enough for the Americans, who are rushing to fund the provision of security and accounting systems at Russian reactors.
"The industry has never acquired the culture of safety which is required," said Lidia Popova, director of the Centre for Nuclear Ecology and Energy Policy. "So far we have not had significant thefts of nuclear material. But you cannot underestimate the problem."
The most shocking example of Russian laxity is the practice of the Northern Fleet of dumping its nuclear waste on open ground, sometimes only 25 miles from the Norwegian border.
"We are used to thinking of nuclear dangers as a big bang, but we are facing a Chernobyl in slow motion - not in three minutes but over 50 years," said Frederic Hauge, general manager of the Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian environmental group.
* * *
Высококачественные снимки земной поверхности, доставленные на Землю российским спутником, будут выставлены в сети Интернет, и их можно будет будет приобрести за определенную плату в зависимости от площади, которая отражена на снимке. На снимках можно различить даже след автомобиля.
A satellite bringing back the sharpest pictures yet offered for commercial, non-spy purposes has returned to Earth with images that will be available for downloading from the Internet.
* * *
The pictures carried back by the Russian satellite will be detailed enough to distinguish objects as small as a car or a garden shed, according to Aerial Images, the American firm that plans to market them.
John Hoffman, president of Aerial Images, which is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, said the satellite, its speed broken by retro-rocket firings, returned to Earth on Friday last week, close to where it was launched on February 17 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
"It went off without a hitch," he said of his company's joint mission with Sovinformsputnik, a commercial arm of the Russian Space Agency.
Hoffman said that when the on-board film was processed and digitised, images would be available for downloading for between Ј5.50 and Ј15 each, depending on the area covered. High-quality poster-size prints would also be available through Kodak, one of the American companies supporting the mission, Hoffman said.
Customers can also request images on CD-Rom. With such "two-metre resolution", a viewer would be able to pick out a house within a neighbourhood or examine potential building sites.
Prior to ordering, shots can be viewed free on the so-called "TerraServer", a joint project involving Microsoft, Aerial Images, Digital Equipment Co, Kodak and Sovinformsputnik.
"It's the highest-resolution imagery that has ever been commercially made available anywhere in the world," Hoffman said, noting it was good enough to distinguish a truck from a car.
The recent mission collected images of the south-eastern United States from Mississippi eastwards and from the tip of Florida to Washington, DC.
Three more missions are planned, starting this autumn, to complete coast-to-coast coverage of the US.
Рецензия на две книги, вышедшие недавно в Великобритании. В одной из них рассказывается о том, как российское исследовательское судно "Келдыш" участвовало в поисках двух судов, затонувших во время второй мировой войны у западного побережья Африки. На их борту было несколько тонн золота. Автор книги участовал в экспедиции.
James Hamilton-Paterson's Three Miles Down is about the search for two vessels sunk off the west coast of Africa during the Second World War. One was a Japanese submarine; the other, a liner requisitioned by the British government as a troop carrier. Each was carrying several tons of gold.
* * *
In the early 1990s a company was founded expressly to locate both vessels and raise their gold. It chartered a Russian research ship, the Keldysh, and a Russian crew, and Hamilton-Paterson was invited along as a kind of writer-in-residence.
The wrecks were thought to be lying in 4,500-5,000 metres of water, and the salvage operation was the first ever attempted at such a depth (the Titanic's objects were scattered at 3,800 metres). Members of the team were to glide to the seabed in a pair of manned submersibles - two of only five in the world capable of operating that far down.
Hamilton-Paterson is much more interested in the sea than in sunken treasure (he has already written one book about it, the gripping Seven-Tenths). It is the romance of the deep that inflames his imagination. When tension breaks out between the Keldysh scientists, itching to get on with their research, and representatives of the investors, Hamilton-Paterson refers to what the scientists perceive as "the ignoble purpose of gold-digging". It is a view with which I suspect he has some sympathy.
The emotional focus of the book, and to a certain extent its raison d'être, is Hamilton-Paterson's own descent to the seabed in one of the submersibles. The passages in which he tries to make some sense of what he has seen are the best in the book:
Where I have just returned from is wonderful beyond anything I've seen before, and partly because it is so spectacularly ungodded, too remote to be anthropomorphized.
He describes it as the greatest experience of his life, and goes on to ruminate on "the slow, timeless egg undergoing a Darwinian process of germination", one that will result - millennia after the human race has been extinguished - in the whole laborious process starting again.
The book has something of the thriller about it, especially as the Keldysh approaches the putative site of the Japanese submarine. But the crew never finds either vessel, let alone any gold, so there is no dramatic climax. Hamilton-Paterson makes the story work through a flavoursome blend of anecdote, local colour and - the essential ingredient - strong characters. (The team splinters under pressure, predictably, as they ping and plough over black kilometres of ocean.
Hamilton-Paterson calls the Keldysh "an emotional bear garden".) His prose is agreeably spiced with irony and humour, too - the cook, for example, is "an obliging and often sober fellow".
Hamilton-Paterson surfaces again in Granta 61: the Sea, this time accompanying divers on a different kind of trip. At essay length, his prose is denser and more suggestive. His fellow contributors in this cracking collection include a squad of well-known names as well as a small team of newcomers. Among the former, Paul Theroux tells a funny (odd, not ha-ha) tale of bizarre tribal rituals; among the latter Robert Drewe contributes a poignant and finely drawn piece about his mother and his life as a junior reporter on the coast of western Australia.
Our travel has diminished the literature of the sea. But, my God, 'planes are boring. These two books, both passionate and freighted with imagery, revive Conrad's perfectly expressed sentiment:
"And I looked upon the true sea - the sea that plays with men till their hearts are broken, and wears stout ships to death."
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA - The Neurolab mission currently aboard the space shuttle Columbia is the last scheduled flight in the Spacelab program, the European contribution to NASA's space shuttle effort that made its debut in 1983. Now the opportunities for conducting lab experiments in space will be few and far between until the yet-to-be-built international space station is ready for use. Although Spacelab was built for 50 missions, its life was cut short after NASA agreed in 1993 to work with Russia in using the Mir station for space research; unfortunately for scientists, the aging Mir, with its constant maintenance troubles and lack of sophisticated scientific equipment, has proved to be an unhappy alternative.
* * *
Журналистам больше не разрешают слушать переговоры Центра управления полетами с космонавтами.
MOSCOW (AP) - Journalists will no longer be allowed to listen in on conversations between Russian Mission Control and cosmonauts on the Mir space station, officials said Thursday.
The shift in policy came after a seven-hour spacewalk on Wednesday failed to accomplish repairs to the outside of Mir.
Reporters at Russia's Mission Control were able to hear occasional fragments of radio traffic between ground controllers and cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin during the Wednesday spacewalk.
But for most of it, the audio system was intentionally turned off and reporters had to wait for space officials to provide periodic briefings.
The mission ended in disappointment as the crew ran out of time and failed to stabilize a badly bent solar panel, leaving the task for the next spacewalk, set for Monday.
When asked why the sound system was turned off, officials said it reflected a recent decision to keep reporters from listening in.
Pressed further, Deputy Mission Control chief Viktor Blagov cited problems with "unconscientious" journalists who allegedly exaggerated some of the Mir's past problems.
"Nobody will reverse the decision," Blagov said Thursday, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Journalists at Mission Control sit in a balcony above the ground controllers. Last year, space officials allowed the media to monitor radio traffic throughout a series of breakdowns and accidents last year on the Mir, even when exchanges became testy.
Russian space officials, however, grew exasperated, complaining that media coverage was too critical and had exaggerated the problems aboard the aging space station.
During an aborted spacewalk mission last month, Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov grew frustrated with the crew at one point.
"Don't do anything without our command," Solovyov snapped at Musabayev, the Mir's commander. Moments later, the audio system was shut off.
Solovyov shunned the media on Wednesday, leaving that task to Blagov, his deputy.
The decision to bar journalists from listening to the audio system comes at a time when the space station has been running relatively trouble-free for months.
Russian space officials intend to keep the Mir aloft until at least next year. The 12-year-old station was originally intended to remain in orbit just five years.
Four more spacewalks are scheduled during the first three weeks of April.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.
* * *
Из-за технических неполадок космонавтам пришлось сократить время пребывания в космосе.
MOSCOW (AP) - Technical problems forced two Russian cosmonauts to cut short their spacewalk on Monday and return to the Mir space station.
Cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin succeeded in the primary aim of their mission - stabilizing a bent solar panel with a 5-foot metal splint - before being ordered to return to the space station to switch on a replacement thruster engine.
While the two were in space, a thruster engine used to align Mir with the sun ran out of fuel, forcing the change in plans, Mission Control officials said.
Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said controllers had expected the fuel to run out, but not during the spacewalk. He said that the two cosmonauts, using the thruster engine, immediately restored the station's alignment to the sun after their return.
Satellite problems forced the cosmonauts and Mission Control to communicate with ground transmitters, which shortened the length of their conversations. The satellite problems did not have anything to do with the walk being cut short, however, Solovyov said.
The damaged solar panel stabilized by the cosmonauts on Monday is the only one of 10 that is not working. Space officials said they have no hope of making the panel work again, but were concerned that it could break loose and hit the station if not reinforced.
The panel was damaged in a collision with a cargo ship in June.
Monday's spacewalk was intended to last for about 5 1/2 hours, but was cut to four hours and 15 minutes, officials said.
Musabayev and Budarin fell behind schedule, taking more time than planned to adjust the metal splint. Instead of starting their next job-removing some scientific research equipment from outside the craft-they were ordered to return to the station to switch on the replacement engine.
Monday's spacewalk followed two failed efforts to stabilize the solar panel. On the first try last month, Musabayev and Budarin couldn't open the Mir's exit hatch and had to call off the entire spacewalk.
On Wednesday, they got the door open, but needed much longer than expected to set up support equipment. They ran low on oxygen and had to return to the station after almost seven hours.
The crew plans three more spacewalks this month-this Saturday, and on April 17 and 22 - to repair the station's exterior.
The third man on the Mir, NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas, will remain inside the station during this month's spacewalks, filming his colleagues' progress.
After a series of accidents and breakdowns last year, the 12-year-old Mir has been largely trouble-free in recent months.
Russian space officials hope to keep the station manned at least until next year, when a new international space station should be ready to handle a crew. Russia and the United States are among 15 countries involved in the project.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press.
* * *
Во время шестичасового пребывания в космосе космонавты заменили двигатель.
MOSCOW (AP) - Russian cosmonauts tossed a spent thruster engine into space and examined a faulty valve Saturday during the first of three spacewalks designed to keep the aging space station running smoothly and pointing toward the sun.
* * *
The two cosmonauts spent more than six hours creeping along a 46-foot girder to the engine, detaching it, and shoving it away from the station.
"That's it," said Capt. Talgat Musabayev, watching the engine float away. "It's gone."
The engine ran out of fuel during a spacewalk last week, forcing the cosmonauts to rush back to the station and switch on another engine that restored the Mir's orientation.
Russian space officials said they expect the spent thruster to remain in orbit for about a year before falling toward Earth and burning up in the atmosphere. The thruster had been in operation since 1992. Orientation engines are not rechargeable and need to be replaced when fuel runs out.
The station must remain aligned toward the sun because it is partly powered by solar energy.
It took the cosmonauts about an hour to crawl along the boom and reach the engine. Musabayev said he could see the Sahara Desert and the Red Sea below him. At one point, the two cosmonauts watched a violent thunderstorm over China and Korea.
The spacewalk proceeded basically according to schedule.
"Since this is their third spacewalk, they've started to feel comfortable," said Viktor Blagov, deputy Mission Control chief.
NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas remained inside the station, filming his colleagues.
After dismantling the engine, the cosmonauts returned to the main section of the station and examined a valve leading from Mir's oxygen generator, which has malfunctioned several times.
Space officials said they found some residue on the outside of the vent, which releases waste hydrogen into space. The residue appeared to be from impurities in the water used to generate oxygen.
Because of the residue, space officials decided to postpone plans to seal the outside vent, which must be done before the valve can be replaced. The station has a second, newer oxygen generator in case problems with the first one persist.
During the mission, ground controllers said they were not receiving data from Musabayev's spacesuit about the cosmonaut's body temperature and heart rate. They did not consider it a serious problem, but ordered the cosmonauts to take periodic rests during the arduous mission.
During the next two spacewalks, scheduled for April 17 and 22, the cosmonauts will install a new orientation engine.
After a series of accidents and breakdowns last year, the 12-year-old Mir has experienced no major troubles in recent months.
Russian space officials hope to keep the station manned at least until next year, when a new international space station should be ready to handle a crew.
Mir's cosmonauts ventured outside the space station today to work on the installation of a new thruster engine - their fourth spacewalk in a busy month for the Russians.
* * *
The engine keeps the Mir's solar panels pointing toward the sun so they can absorb the maximum amount of energy. The old engine, in operation since 1992, had to be replaced.
During the last spacewalk, Saturday, cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin detached and jettisoned the old engine.
Today's six-hour spacewalk to prepare for installing the new engine started about 15 minutes behind schedule, after Budarin had to fix a last-minute problem with his space suit's radio.
"I can almost lip-read him but cannot hear," Musabayev said at one point.
Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov ordered the cosmonauts to return to the station if they had further problems.
"Boys, let's make the walk," Solovyov said. "But if you encounter communication outrages, you must return. Don't underestimate these things. You cannot work while lip-reading."
Completing the installation, the cosmonauts will step outside Mir again Wednesday to put the new thruster in place.
At five spacewalks in a month, it's an unusually heavy schedule for the Russians.
American Andrew Thomas, the third man on board, is filming their work. After a series of breakdowns last year, Mir has been running virtually trouble-free in recent months. Ground controllers decided it was a good time to carry out a series of maintenance jobs on the 12-year-old station.
Officials have said they probably will abandon the Mir next year, when a new international space station should be ready to handle a crew. Russia and the United States are among 15 countries involved in the project.
Two Russian cosmonauts successfully completed a spacewalk lasting more than six hours outside the Mir space station on Friday, paving the way for them to install a new engine next week, space officials said.
The spacewalk was part of efforts to repair the 12-year-old orbiting complex that has suffered a series of technical failures over the past year but has flown without major problems in recent months.
"The cosmonauts have completed their work outside Mir according to the programmers despite two problems," Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin said.
"They closed the hatch at 6:14 p.m. (1414 GMT)," he said, adding that both cosmonauts felt well after the spacewalk.
Lyndin said flight engineer Nikolai Budarin's radio failed as the two Russian cosmonauts were preparing to leave the station, delaying their departure by 15 minutes.
The second problem came when Budarin and commander Talgat Musabayev tried to pull out the new engine from the Progress cargo supply ship. It did not release automatically as they had expected and they had to do the job manually, Lyndin said.
Friday's was the second of three spacewalks to install a propulsion unit attached to Mir by a 14-meter (45-foot) boom that helps keep the station aligned to the sun and gathering solar power.
They are scheduled to install the new engine during a spacewalk next Wednesday.
Mir's third crew member, NASA astronaut Andrew Thomas, remained inside Mir during Friday's spacewalk.
Musabayev made the spacewalk wearing a different space suit from the one he used during the last space walk.
The decision to change the suit came after Mission Control stopped receiving data from the equipment on Musabayev's spacesuit that measured his pulse and blood pressure at one stage during their last spacewalk.
© Reuters Ltd. All rights reserved.
* * *
Station - an orbiting laboratory being built by 16 nations - cosmonauts can finally sweep Mir into the dustbin of
technologies past. With the launch of Russian-built Control Module, construction begins on the 356-by-290-foot space
habitat, which sleeps a crew of seven. Would-be residents will have to wait until 1999 before the first functional part of the
station is completed to move in.
* * *
Россия планирует драматическую кончину станции Мир.
MOSCOW, April 29 - Russian space officials are preparing the old and frail Mir spacecraft for an assisted suicide. Cosmonauts will begin to maneuver it into a lower orbit in May, the first step toward letting gravity do its work, said a top official at Energia, which built and runs Mir. A module will be launched toward Mir on May 15 carrying fuel needed to propel the station toward Earth, said a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.
* * *
Perhaps as early as December 1999, the last crew will abandon ship. The station will then fall into the atmosphere and crash into the sea, either intact or in pieces after its component modules are undocked from one another.
Mir's demise is being taken as a sign of Russia's declining fortunes in space. "The end of Mir will mark the end of Russia's world leadership in orbital space exploration," said Yuri Semyonov, president of Energia. "Henceforth, Russia will only be able to perform supporting roles in space."
Mir is the world's only orbiting manned space station. With 12 years aloft, it has long surpassed its life expectancy of five years. More than 100 cosmonauts in 25 crews have served on it. Recently, a string of NASA astronauts have lived on Mir doing scientific experiments and surviving some of the station's most rocky moments. American Andrew Thomas is a member of the current three-man crew.
Last year, a collision with a supply vehicle poked holes in Mir and almost forced the crew to leave. Computer failures on several occasions sent the craft spinning out of control without power. Its air system occasionally malfunctioned, cooling system failures sent the craft's temperature soaring, a fire broke out, and hatches refused to shut or open. Cosmonauts are trying to repair solar panels to ensure proper flows of energy from the sun's rays.
Mir is scheduled to be eclipsed by a new, $20 billion international space station currently under construction. The effort is a joint program by the United States, Russia, Japan and Western Europe.
Funding for Russia's parts of the program is scarce, and Russian officials say they are under pressure from their American counterparts to focus less of their energy and money on Mir and more of it on the new space station. Its launching has been delayed because of Russian construction delays on one of the station's modules.
Space officials complain that of $100 million promised for the new module last year by the government of President Boris Yeltsin, only $20 million has arrived. Meanwhile, the government also reduced spending on space in this year's budget, cutting expenditures by about a third, to $600 million.
Until this week, officials said it was too early to talk of Mir's death. But other, more practical areas of Russia's space program need attention. According to the government's Tass news agency, 10 of the country's 16 telecommunications satellites in service are overdue for replacement.