Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

"Mir' crew undergoes physicals

After 3{ months of being the doctor, astronaut Norman Thagard became the patient Friday and was poked and probed aboard Atlantis-Mir, the linked U.S. shuttle and Russian space station.

Dr. Ellen Baker drew blood from Thagard, a physician, and his two Russian crewmates and performed physical exams to help scientists understand the effects on the body of long stays in space. Thagard spent 3{ months aboard the space station Mir, a U.S. space endurance record.

The rest of the 10 space travelers lugged containers of water from space shuttle Atlantis to Mir and gently carried trays of science samples in the opposite direction.

For NASA, these samples are more valuable than gold. Thagard and Russian cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov dutifully saved blood, urine and saliva throughout their 105-day stay on Mir so U.S. researchers could get their first glimpse in more than 20 years into the effects of long-term weightlessness.

Long stays in orbit cause anemia and loss of bone and muscle, and expose astronauts to radiation.

Mission Control, meanwhile, was puzzled by the higher than expected use of fuel by Atlantis. The shuttle is controlling the position of the sprawling, half-million-pound complex by firing small jets so Mir's power-generating solar panels constantly face the sun.

NASA flight director Bob Castle said engineers apparently guessed wrong on the mass of the space station, its rigidity or both.

Atlantis is to return Friday.