Shuttle Mir

In order to dock with Mir, one Shuttle would have to be fitted with a special adaptor, and Atlantis was chosen for the upgrade. Following a close orbital rendezvous by Discovery in early 1995, Atlantis and Mir docked in space on 29 June. In the meantime, one of Mir's remaining elements, the Spektr Earth-sciences module, had finally been launched, now fitted out with additional equipment needed for NASA's own programme of experiments.

An American astronaut, Norman Thagard, had also been aboard Mir for more than three months. For this first visit, Atlantis brought with it a Spacelab module fitted with equipment to assess the health of the station's outgoing crew. The incoming crew also included two Russian cosmonaut passengers who would take over on Mir - Anatoli Solovyov and Nikolai Budarin.

Later visits brought new equipment and supplies to Mir, as well as ferrying personnel to and from the station. A new docking adapter was fitted that allowed the Shuttle to dock in a more convenient configuration, and in April 1996 the Priroda module was finally added to Mir. This last element of the station contained remote-sensing and materials-science equipment.

3 February 1995

Discovery comes within 10m (33ft) of the Russian space station during the STS-63 "Near Mir" mission.

1 June 1995

The Spektr module docks successfully with Mir.

29 June 1995

Atlantis and Mir dock for the first time during the STS-71 mission.

14 November 1995

Atlantis STS-74 adds a docking module to Mir.

24 March 1996

STS-76 ferries equipment to and from Mir and leaves a new American crew member, female astronaut Shannon Lucid.

26 April 1996

Priroda, the last of Mir's main modules, is joined to the station.

15 January 1997

Atlantis STS-81 collects John Blaha and leaves Jerry Linenger as Mir's new long-term guest.

17 May 1997

Atlantis STS-84 docks with Mir. Jerry Linenger is replaced by British-born astronaut Michael Foale.

27 September 1997

Atlantis STS-86 arrives at Mir to collect Michael Foale and leave Oavid A. Wolf onboard.


The five astronauts of Atlantis'* STS-74 mission look out from the Space Shuttle's aft flight deck overhead window to greet their colleagues aboard Mir. Moments earlier, the two spacecraft had docked for only the second time.

1958 1959-

1958 1959-


Cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin (centre) and Alexander Kaleri set out on what would prove to be the lost visit to Mir, in April 2000.


Cosmonauts Sergei Zalyotin (centre) and Alexander Kaleri set out on what would prove to be the lost visit to Mir, in April 2000.




The end of Mir

Throughout the later Shuttle-Mir missions, the Russian space station was showing its age. When ambitious schemes to keep Mir running as a private concern came to nothing, the station was doomed to a fiery end.

American astronauts visiting Mir found the station ran along unfamiliar lines. While NASA controllers micromanaged each Shuttle astronaut's day in blocks of activity, Mir cosmonauts were allowed to organise much of their own time. Although partly an inevitable consequence of Mir's limited contact with the ground (the Russians had no equivalent of NASA's TORS satellite system to maintain constant contact), the Americans soon found they enjoyed their independence during such long missions - a lesson that would be applied when it came to managing the ISS.

The coming together of space programmes also emphasized other differences between them - most significantly, how rapidly Mir was aging compared to the frequently serviced, constantly refurbished Shuttle. Every month seemed to bring a new snag, ranging from leaks to power failures and even bumps from Soyuz and Progress spacecraft flying close to the station. However, the worst crises were undoubtedly the fire of February 1997 (see over), and the collision of Progress-M 34 with the Spektr module four months later (see panel, opposite).

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