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‘Alien’ scare on space station

Moscow, Nov. 27 (Reuters): Russian space officials dismissed today suggestions that the International Space Station had been struck by a foreign object, saying an unusual noise heard by the crew had probably come from equipment onboard.

US astronaut Michael Foale told Nasa’s Mission Control yesterday a brief, metallic crunching noise he heard sounded as if something had hit the orbiting station. External inspections showed there had been no damage and the noise may have come from onboard apparatus, officials said. “Subsequent inspections showed there was no collision whatsoever,” a mission control spokesman said by telephone from outside Moscow.

Foale and Russian crewmate Alexander Kaleri were finishing breakfast when they heard the noise from the rear of the station’s Russian module housing sleeping quarters, a kitchen and toilet. “A noise was heard, similar to the sound of a tin being crushed. It lasted about one second,” Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for Russia’s space authority Rosaviakosmos, told NTV television.

“Using external cameras the crew checked the panelling of the segment — no damage was found. The noise was most likely linked to some kind of device inside the station.”

Interfax news agency quoted a Rosaviakosmos spokesman as saying that the noise may have come from a ventilator as has occurred previously. US statements that failing air and water monitors on the station were endangering crew safety have dogged Foale and Kaleri’s stay since they began a 200-day mission last month.

Russian officials have dismissed the concerns. Russia launches all manned and cargo ships to the station since February, when the US grounded its shuttles after the Columbia disaster that killed seven astronauts.

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