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ARRL Satellite Bulletin ARLS005 (1997)

ARLS005 School contacts a go in wake of Mir fire

Space Bulletin 005  ARLS005
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington, CT  February 28, 1997
To all radio amateurs

ARLS005 School contacts a go in wake of Mir fire

A ham radio contact between ham-Astronaut Jerry Linenger, KC5HBR,
aboard the Russian Mir space station, and pupils at an elementary
school in Michigan went off on schedule February 27, unaffected by a
fire aboard Mir a few days earlier.  Linenger, a physician, reported
no injuries and all crew members in good health following the
incident on February 24.  A problem with an oxygen-generating device
on Mir set off fire alarms and caused minor damage from excessive
heat rather than from open flame.

The Mir fire was a popular topic as pupils at Charlevoix Elementary
School in Michigan, spoke with Linenger Thursday morning.  A crowd
of 320, including reporters from four television stations and three
newspapers, was on hand as 15 Charlevoix pupils spent ten minutes
talking with Mir.  The operator was Craig Stewart, KB8KPV.
Regarding onboard emergencies, Linenger told the pupils that there
is a crew return vehicle on each end of Mir, if something goes
wrong, and he assured the youngsters that everything is fine now.
He also mentioned that he misses pretzels and now eats about
one-half Russian and one-half American food.  ''The students were all
very excited and really enjoyed their contact,'' said Frank Bauer,
KA3HDO, AMSAT vice president for manned space flight.  Three schools
in Texas hope to have a chance to talk with Linenger over the next
few weeks.

The fire last Monday burned for about 90 seconds.  The crew was
exposed to heavy smoke for five to seven minutes and donned masks in
response.  Medical personnel directed the crew to wear goggles and
masks until an analysis of the Mir atmosphere could be completed.

Lithium perchlorate candles are burned to generate supplemental
oxygen when more than three people are on board the space station.
The oxygen-generating candles usually burn for up to 20 minutes.
Russian officials believe the problem began when a crack in the
oxygen generator's shell allowed the contents of the cartridge to
leak into the hardware in which it was located.  Crew members
extinguished the fire with foam from three fire extinguishers.

The heat destroyed the hardware in which the candle was burning, as
well as the panel covering the device.  The crew also reported that
the outer insulation layers on various cables were melted by the
heat.  Russian flight controllers say that all Mir systems continue
to operate normally, however.

Other schools hoping to speak with Linenger via ham radio include
Perryton High School, Perryton, Texas, on March 4, United South High
School, Laredo, Texas, on March 11, Booker T. Washington High
School, Houston, Texas, on March 17.

In addition to Linenger, the Mir crew members include Mir 22
cosmonauts Valery Korzun and Alexander Kaleri, Mir 23 cosmonauts
Vasily Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin, and German researcher
Reinhold Ewald, DL2MIR, representing the German space agency, DARA.
Korzun, Kaleri and Ewald are scheduled to return to Earth on Sunday,
March 2, wrapping up a six-month mission for Korzun and Kaleri and
three weeks of scientific experiments for Ewald.  Linenger will
remain aboard Mir with Tsibliev and Lazutkin until mid-May.

Officials are evaluating possible impacts of the fire to the mission
and its science activities, as technical experts at the Russian
Mission Control Center investigate the incident.  The burned panel
and other materials may be returned to Earth with Korzun, Kaleri and
Ewald on Sunday for further analysis.


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