Despite the common claim that being on Mir means "invaluable experience" for NASA astronauts, it turns out that if the experience doesn't fit what officials want the public to believe, the experience is hidden away. A glaring example of this is how Jerry Linenger REALLY felt when he made his E.V.A. on April 29. Here's how he described it during a debriefing session at NASA on June 6:
The airlock hatch is a piece of junk with a broken hinge, "jury rigged with a couple of C-clamps holding it together" that you have to "very gingerly open". Noted Linenger, "It gives you an uneasy feeling as you leave." Once outside, "You have a continuous feeling you're falling off the station," he recalled. "It's a very uneasy feeling, a very strong feeling of falling that had to be overcome." He warned that he "could see someone getting very panicky out there, especially if they had a fear of heights."
The external surface of Mir was a hazardous environment with razor sharp edged objects. Many translation paths led to blind alleys, and it was extremely difficult to know where you were on the external surface (sometimes his only hope was peering into a window and recognizing the part of Mir he was outside of). Training in the water tank was nowhere near the reality ("I think the people in Star City don't really know the configuration out there").
He was out on the end of the Strela arm, constantly worrying it would snap and send him off into space. "I'm just out there kinda dangling, not comfortable out there, very uncomfortable," he recalled. "You don't have a lot of confidence the things aren't gonna break," he explained (he had heard about handrails breaking on previous spacewalks so always tried to stay attached at two points).
Worry piled on worry: "It's risk upon risk. Is the station going to work? Is the space suit going to work? Is the Strela going to break? I suspect that some other people wouldn't have been able to do that. If there had been one more sensation, or one more thing go wrong, I wouldn't have been able to do it. It was a surprise to me how frightening it was. And I was surprised how I was able to overcome it. It was close to overwhelming, it's right on the edge of a very bad feeling."
Mike Foale was already aboard Mir when Linenger gave this honest description. Let's hope that somebody at NASA briefed Foale about it.