Close Call, Comrades

A last-ditch effort gets food to orbiting cosmonauts, saving their mission from a disastrous early end

For a few tense days last week, the prestige of the Russian space program -- and the well-being of three cosmonauts -- was in jeopardy as a planned rendezvous in orbit went suddenly awry. A Progress rocket laden with food and other vital supplies glided up to -- and right past -- the Mir space station. Ground controllers then made a second effort to dock the two craft, but failed. By late Friday afternoon, the Progress could make only one last pass; this time cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko would try to maneuver Mir into a favorable position. Finally, with no more room...

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