A VETERAN COMMANDER AS WORN DOWN AS HIS CRAFT

Star-crossed is too melodramatic a term for Colonel Vasily Tsibliyev, Mir's commander. Stressed out is probably more like it. Like the Mir spacecraft itself, Tsibliyev is worn down and in danger of falling apart. He has been aboard the aging space station since February and has had to cope with nonstop crises: a fire, breakdowns in oxygen and cooling systems, a collision with a cargo ship and last week a power failure. No wonder he's suffering from an irregular heartbeat and taking sedatives.

To make things worse, the Russian media have been pointing fingers at him as the cause of some...

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