Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Shuttle-Mir program was a collaborative space program involving Russia and the United States. It involved the American Space Shuttle visiting the Russian space station Mir. It was announced in 1993 with the first mission occurring in 1995. Despite safety concerns from the Americans, the program continued until its scheduled completion in 1998. The program was an important precursor to the current International Space Station.
In June 1992, U.S. president George H. W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin agreed to join hands in space exploration: one U.S. astronaut would board Mir, two Russian cosmonauts would board a space shuttle. September 1993 U.S. Vice-president Al Gore and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced plans for a new space station, which would later be called the International Space Station, or ISS. They also agreed that, in preparation for this new project, the U.S. would be largely involved in the Mir project in the years ahead, under the code name Phase One (the ISS being Phase Two). Space shuttles would take part in the transportation of supplies and people to and from the Mir. U.S. astronauts would live in the Mir for many months on end. Thus the U.S. could share and learn from the unique experience that Russia has with long duration space trips.
Starting March 1995 seven U.S. astronauts consecutively spent 28 months on the Mir. During their stay the space station went through rough times and several acute emergencies occurred, notably a large fire on February 23 1997, and a collision with a Progress (unmanned) cargo ship on June 25 of the same year. In both occasions complete evacuation of the Mir (there was a Soyuz escape craft for return to earth) was avoided with a narrow margin. The second disaster left a hole in the Spektr module, which then was sealed off from the rest of the station. Several space walks were needed to restore full power to the Mir (ironically one of the 'space walks' was inside the Spektr module from which all the air had escaped).
The cooperation between the U.S. and Russia proved far from easy. Distrust, lack of coordination, language problems, different views of each others' responsibilities and divergent interests caused many problems. After the disasters, the U.S. Congress and NASA considered whether the U.S. should abandon the program out of concern for astronauts' safety. NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin decided to continue the program. In June 1998, the final U.S. Mir astronaut Andy Thomas left the station aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.
The story of Phase One is described in great detail by Bryan Burrough in his book Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir (1998).
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details