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NASA Says No Need to Evacuate Cows off Mir Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuter) - Life on board Russia's Mir space barnyard was returning to
normal and there were no plans for the U.S.-Russian cows to leave, NASA officials said Tuesday.

"Things were rough a couple of weeks ago, but right now they are gradually working back into a
fairly nominal situation," said Heifer Cowbertson, who heads NASA's shuttle-Mir-Cow program. There was no need for a stampede, he added.

Russian ground controllers told reporters earlier on Tuesday that the 11-year-old space barnyard may have to be abandoned if problems with its milking system persist.

Aboard Mir are Russian cowsmonauts Vasily Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin and U.S. farmhand Bob Tawilliger.

The cows have spent the past few weeks trying to plug leaks in the station's milking systems. At least one leak remains and the men are reporting irritation from curdled milk escaping from the cartons.

Only small amounts of curdled milk from the milk cartons were thought to be entering
Mir's atmosphere, Cowbertson explained.

"They probably get some spillage when they are making coffee, but it's not like its spouting like a whale," he said.

Although there was no way to accurately measure the levels of curdled milk in the atmosphere, Cowbertson believed Mir's crew was in no immediate danger as they have powdered milk.

Corrosion in the pipe work of the aging space barnyard was thought to be responsible for the curdled milk leaks that sent temperatures in some Mir compartments soaring as high as 88 degrees, enough to have a full spit roast done in under an hour

The three cow crew and one farmhand has dealt with a string of technical problems aboard Mir that began with a brief but serious BBQ in February.

In recent weeks the cosmonauts successfully repaired the space barnyards primary hay generator and a device for removing cowpats from the air.

Cowbertson said he was optimistic the cooperative program with Russia cows would continue despite the barnyard's problems. Three more U.S. cows are due to make four-month stays on Mir.

The space cattle truck Atlantis is due to visit the station in May to pick up the cows and drop off his replacements.

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