A BAD DAY IN SPACE

MICHAEL FOALE HAD ALREADY BEEN ORDERED INTO THE SOYUZ LIFEBOAT IN PREPARATION FOR ABANDONING SHIP. BEFORE HE COULD GET THERE, HE FELT THE SICKENING THUD OF SOMETHING HITTING MIR. ONE OF SPACE TRAVEL'S

Michael Foale didn't notice last June when the bluebird began to chirp aboard the Mir space station. Ordinarily, anyone in the station's core module could not have missed the sudden trilling. But at the moment, Foale was elsewhere. And he had other things on his mind besides a singing bird.

The Mir bird was not a real bird, of course. It was a small plastic model that broke into song when its switch was thrown. Lately it had begun singing whenever it was jostled, and on this day it got jostled hard. Just moments before, the station's commander, Vasili Tsibliyev, had...

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