KOROLYOV, RUSSIAU.S. and Russian scientists are increasingly excited about the Mir space station project, which promises to reveal more than has ever been known about the scientific relationship between weightlessness and mortal terror.
"By stranding our scientists on a dilapidated space station with faulty wiring, loose hardware, and malfunctioning air systems," NASA head Daniel Goldin said, "we have created extremely favorable conditions for learning about spaceborne panic."
The two Russians and one American on board the station are reportedly terrified beyond lucidity.
Among the groundbreaking experiments conducted on board Mir: a June 25 collision with a cargo craft that depressurized the Spektr module; last week's emergency power shortage, caused by a disconnected cable; and the periodic release of "dry ice" steam that simulates a shipboard fire. All have been deemed a huge success by agency heads.
"They are in a constant state of what aerospace scientists term 'mind-shattering terror,' frightened for their very lives," Russian mission director Vladimir Solovyov said. "And we have not even used the hull-mounted Alien puppet that taps on the window yet."
"We have also taken huge leaps in our understanding of the patterns created when one wets his pants in the weightlessness of space," Solovyov said. "The urine spreads out in an expanding sphere, something we did not expect."
Taking a break from his busy schedule, astronaut Michael Foale told ABC News reporters: "Where is Mommy?"
"Please tell me the access code to the Soyuz capsule," Russian cosmonaut Aleksandr Lazutkin said. "I would like to return to the chaotic government and widespread hunger of my homeland."
Scientists expect to gain even more useful data during an experiment at 3 a.m. tomorrow. As the astronauts sleep, whirling red siren lights will flood the cabin while an ear-splitting klaxon alarm jolts them awake. Detailed scientific data will then be collected on such variables as open weeping, defecation and hair loss.