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Astronauts, Cosmonauts Bid Adieu as Shuttle Leaves Replenished Mir

May 22, 1997| From Associated Press

HOUSTON — After a bittersweet goodbye, the shuttle Atlantis' astronauts parted company with the space station Mir's cosmonauts Wednesday night 250 miles above Russia.

The shuttle left behind a new oxygen generator and other crucial repair equipment, as well as a replacement for U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger on the station.

Linenger was elated to be going home after four difficult months aboard the aging Mir.

"I'm going fishing!" he said earlier in the day, just before the hatches to the two craft were sealed. "What I miss most are things like fresh air and the breeze in my face."

His wife, Kathryn, has some other ideas, like preparing a nursery. She's due to give birth to their second child June 27.

During his Mir mission, Linenger battled flames, fumes, excruciatingly high temperatures and broken machinery. The 42-year-old doctor said it was "a tough time," but added: "Any adventure like that when you come close to pushing the envelope and survive, it's a great adventure and in retrospect I have no regrets whatsoever."

Nonetheless, Linenger was the first one into Atlantis when it came time to close the doors after five days of linked flight.

Michael Foale, Linenger's relief aboard Mir, smiled as he watched his American colleagues float away one by one. The seven shuttle fliers and three Mir men hugged one another and shook hands.

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