Close Call For Mir

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MOSCOW: In a nearly catastrophic accident, Mir spun wildly out of control today after a crew member accidentally disconnected a vital cable, sending the crew scurrying into the Soyuz escape capsule just in case. The blunder, which cut all power to the station's electricity, orientation, life support and communications systems, occurred while the crew was preparing to fix the station's power system, which was damaged after Mir collided with a cargo ship in June. Once the plug was pulled, the station began to spin chaotically, turning away from the sun and draining its already low energy supply. Crew members huddled in Soyuz, where independent life support and power systems are stored, breathing oxygen from its emergency canisters. As usual, Russian space agency officials insisted that all was under control and said that the crew had not been ordered to prepare for an evacuation. Now that the crew has managed to reconnect the power cable, Mir is reorienting towards the sun and recharging its near-depleted power supply. The close call, coming just as the Columbia space shuttle was touching down after a perfect mission, is certain to weaken reinforce strong doubts in Congress about further participation by American astronauts in the threadbare Russian space program.