MOSCOW — A Soviet passenger in orbit is monkeying around with the equipment in his spacecraft, and experts said Wednesday that it may be necessary to end his scientific mission ahead of schedule.
The passenger is a monkey, Yarosha--Russian slang for village troublemaker.
According to Tass, the Soviet news agency, experts monitoring the flight on video screens noticed something was wrong when Yarosha's nameplate was missing from a cap fitted with electrodes.
The experts soon discovered that the monkey had slipped his left arm out of a harness on the fifth day of a scheduled 12-day flight.
Yarosha promptly "began happily exploring everything around him, including the cap tightly fixed to his head," Tass said.
"The nameplate evidently was bothering him," Tass reported.
Abandoning its customary somber tone, Tass reported that Yarosha was having a delightful time tampering with all of the equipment within reach.
It quoted experts at a ground control station as saying that they may decide to bring the spacecraft back to Earth before the mission's experiments are completed. The experts, Tass said, are working on the ground with another monkey and a mock-up of the satellite to see if they can determine just how much damage Yarosha could cause.
The mission, scheduled to end Sunday, is part of a series of research flights designed to pave the way for interplanetary travel by manned spacecraft.
A second monkey on the flight, Dryoma (Russian slang for a laid-back lazybones) was living up to his name as well. Dryoma was causing no problems, Tass said.
The monkeys, along with several rats and fish and a number of insects, were launched into orbit a week ago. Their mission was undertaken in cooperation with experts from the United States, the European Space Agency and East Bloc nations.
The unexpected monkeyshines aboard the satellite, which was designed to test the effects of weightlessness on living organisms, came after both monkeys performed well in preflight tests.
Yarosha and Dryoma were trained like the dogs of Ivan Pavlov, the famous physiologist. They are rewarded with food only after they make the correct response to light signals on the satellite's control panel.
Tass said the monkeys have demonstrated "brilliant mastery of the program of experiments."
During blastoff, Yarosha's pulse rate soared and his body temperature shot up, but the sluggish Dryoma showed little reaction.
Conditions were described as normal in the compartments containing the other creatures.