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Cosmonauts to repair solar panels

In another step toward boosting Mir's power, two cosmonauts plan a 5{-hour spacewalk today to remove a faulty solar panel from the space station to make way for the installation of a new one this week.

Commander Anatoly Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov began the lengthy process of putting on their bulky space suits for the mission set for this morning. The Itar-Tass news agency reported that Solovyov had trouble checking his suit and that the walk's start would be delayed for 90 minutes to 9 a.m.

Solovyov, who has made more than a dozen spacewalks, is making his fourth trip outside Mir's pressurized modules since arriving in August.

The cosmonauts must remove one of the station's 10 solar panels because it is wearing out. On Thursday, they will head out again to install a panel in its place.

Astronaut David Wolf will wait inside to send a signal to fold up the solar panel before it is taken down and check that the panel folds up properly.

The mission is part of an operation to increase Mir's power supply, cut nearly in half when the station was hit by a cargo ship during a practice docking in June.

The cosmonauts also plan to deploy a small replica of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite, which was launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.

Russian and French schoolchildren helped make the satellite, which is one-third the size of the original _ itself only about as big as a beach ball. Russian engineers constructed the exterior and the children built the transmitter inside, said a Mission Control spokeswoman.

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