SKYLAB

Skylab was America's first experimental space station. Designed for long duration mission, Skylab program objectives were twofold: To prove that humans could live and work in space for extended periods, and to expand our knowledge of solar astronomy well beyond Earth-based observations. Successful in all respects despite early mechanical difficulties, three three-man crews occupied the Skylab workshop for a total of 171 days, 13 hours. It was the site of nearly 300 scientific and technical experiments: medical experiments on humans' adaptability to zero gravity, solar observations, and detailed Earth resources experiments. The empty Skylab spacecraft returned to Earth July 11, 1979 scattering debris over the Indian Ocean and the sparsely settled region of Western Australia.

Skylab made extensive use of Saturn and Apollo equipment. Through the use of a "dry" third stage of the Saturn V rocket, the station was completely outfitted as a workshop area before launch. Crews visited Skylab and returned to earth in Apollo spacecraft.

The Skylab space station was launched May 14, 1973, from the NASA Kennedy Space Center by a huge Saturn V launch vehicle, the moon rocket of the Apollo Space Program. Sixty-three seconds after liftoff, the meteoroid shield--designed also to shade Skylab's workshop--deployed inadvertently. It was torn from the space station by atmospheric drag. This event and its effects started a ten-day period in which Skylab was beset with problems that had to be conquered before the space station would be safe and habitable for the three manned periods of its planned eight-month mission.

When the meteoroid shield ripped loose, it disturbed the mounting of workshop solar array "wing" two and caused it to partially deploy. The exhaust plume of the second stage retro-rockets impacted the partially deployed solar array and literally blew it into space. Also, a strap of debris from the meteoroid shield overlapped solar array "wing" number one such that when the programmed deployment signal occurred, wing number one was held in a slightly opened position where it was able to generate virtually no power.

In the meantime, the space station had achieved a near-circular orbit at the desired altitude of 435 kilometers (270 miles). All other major functions including payload shroud jettison, deployment of the Apollo Telescope Mount (Skylab's solar observatory) and its solar arrays, and pressurization of the space station occurred as planned.

Scientists, engineers, astronauts, and management personnel at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and elsewhere worked throughout the first ten-day period of Skylab's flight to devise the means for its rescue. Simultaneously, Skylab--seriously overheating--was maneuvered through varying nose-up attitudes that would best maintain an acceptable "holding" condition. During that ten-day period and for some time thereafter, the space station operated on less than half of its designed electrical system, in the partially nose-up attitudes, was generating power at reduced efficiency. The optimum condition that maintained the most favorable balance between Skylab temperatures and its power generation capability occurred at approximately 50 degrees nose-up.

Skylab's achievements are a summary of the accomplishments of many ground-based persons as well as its three separate crews who were launched in Apollo-type command modules by Saturn IB vehicles on May 25, July 28, and November 16, 1973. In Skylab, both the man-hours in space and the man-hours spent in performance of extravehicular activities (EVA) under micro-gravity conditions exceeded the combined totals of all of the world's previous space flights up to that time.

By deploying the parasol-type sun shield through Skylab's solar scientific airlock and later releasing workshop solar array wing number one during EVA, the first crew made the remainder of the mission possible. The second crew, also during EVA, erected another sun shield, a twin-pole device.

The effectiveness of Skylab crews exceeded expectations, especially in their ability to perform complex repair tasks. They demonstrated excellent mobility, both internal and external to the space station, showing man to be a positive asset in conducting research from space. By selecting and photographing targets of opportunity on the Sun, and by evaluating weather conditions on Earth and recommending Earth Resources opportunities, crewmen were instrumental in attaining extremely high quality solar and Earth oriented data.

All three crews demonstrated technical skills for scientific, operational, and maintenance functions. Their manual control of the space station, their fine pointing of experiments, and their reasoning and judgment throughout the manned periods were highly effective.

The capability to conduct longer manned missions was conclusively demonstrated in Skylab, first by the crew returning from the 28 day mission and, more forcefully, by the good health and physical condition of the second and third Skylab crews who stayed in weightless space for 59 and 84 days respectively. Also, resupply of space vehicles was attempted for the first time in Skylab and was proven to be effective.

During their time in space, all three crews exceeded the operational and experimental requirements placed upon them by the pre-mission flight plan and schedule. In addition, the third crew performed a number of sightings of Comet Kohoutek which were not initially scheduled.

Following the final manned phase of the Skylab mission, ground controllers performed some engineering tests of certain Skylab systems--tests that ground personnel were reluctant to do while men were aboard. Results from these tests helped to determine causes of failures during the mission and to obtain data on long term degradation of space systems.

Upon completion of the engineering tests, Skylab was positioned into a stable attitude and systems were shut down. It was expected that Skylab would remain in orbit eight to ten years. However, in the fall of 1977, it was determined that Skylab was no longer in a stable attitude as a result of greater than predicted solar activity.

On July 11, 1979, Skylab impacted the Earth surface. The debris dispersion area stretched from the Southeastern Indian Ocean across a sparsely populated section of Western Australia.


======================================================================
                            SKYLAB SUMMARY
 
              SL-1       SL-2        SL-3         SL-4
 
LAUNCH      05-14-73    05-25-73     07-28-73     11-16-73
           1:30PM EDT  9:00AM EDT   7:11AM EDT   9:01AM EST
 
LAUNCH
VEHICLES    SATURN V    SATURN IB    SATURN IB    SATURN IB
 
ORBITAL
PARAMETERS  268.1 x 269.5 Miles
 
ORBITAL
INCLINATION  50 Degrees
 
ORBITAL
PERIOD       APP. 93 MINUTES
 
DISTANCE/
ORBIT        26,575 MILES
 
DISTANCE
TRAVELED/Miles  SL-2          SL-3          SL-4          TOTALS
(MANNED) 11.5 Million   24.5 Million  34.5 Million  70.5 Million Miles
 
MISSION
DURATION                  28 DAYS        59 DAYS        84 DAYS          
                           49 MIN      11 HRS 9 MIN    01 HR 16 MIN    
 
NUMBER
OF
REVOLUTIONS
(MANNED)                    404           858             1214         =  2476

Salyut 1:

Salyut 1 was the first space station put into orbit. The Soviets launched it from Baikonur Cosmodrome on April 19, 1971 using a three-stage Proton launch vehicle. It completed 362 orbits before deorbiting and reentering the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean in October. It was destroyed by frictional heating during its return.

The 18,500 kilogram station was cylindrically shaped and measured 12 meters long by a maximum of 4.1 meters wide. It had three working compartments -- a small-diameter working area, a large-diameter working area and an airlock transfer and docking component. The two working areas provided room and equipment for dining, recreation, control stations, food and water storage, hygiene, exercise and science experimentation. A round opening on top of the large working area had sensors for studying micrometeoroides in the Earth's vicinity.

The main purpose of Salyut 1 was to study the effects of long duration spaceflight on the human body and to take photographs of the Earth from space. It carried a telescope for studying star spectra, a greenhouse to analyze plant growth, a camera and film plates to study cosmic rays and a telescope that could detect gamma rays coming from the sun. However, the cover on the gamma ray telescope failed to jettison, making it unusable.

The three pressurized areas had a collective habitable volume of 100 cubic meters. Two of these could be entered by the crew. The primary area contained eight big chairs, several control panels and approximately 20 portholes. The other area held the control and communication equipment, power supply, life support system and other auxiliary equipment.

The station design was a hybrid between the Soyuz spacecraft and Almaz space station. Almaz was being developed at the same time as Salyut at the Chelomei OKB-52 bureau. The engine compartment and four solar panel design was borrowed from the Soyuz.

Salyut was originally called "Zarya," but this was changed before launch so there would be no confusion between the station and the ground control call sign of the same name. The first crew to visit Salyut 1 launched from Baikonur on April 22, 1971. The Soyuz 10 crew included Vladimir Shatalov, Alexei Yeliseyev and Nikolai Rukavishnikov. They reached the station and attempted to dock with it twice on April 24, but the hatch would not open. The mission failed, and the crew returned home. They landed 120 kilometers northwest of Karaganda later that day.

A successful docking was achieved with the next mission, Soyuz 11. The cosmonauts Viktor Patsayev, Georgi Dobrovolsky, and Vladislav Volkov were the crew of Soyuz 11. For the next 23 days, each crewmember performed his scheduled experiments, which emphasized the study of human performance under, and reaction to, prolonged weightlessness. Research in the areas of astronomy, biology, and Earth observation were also done. This record-breaking 24-day space mission was heralded as the beginning a new era in space exploration. Unfortunately, the Soyuz 11 crew died on re-entry due to a pressure leak in the descent module.


Salyut 3:

Salyut 3 was the first Soviet Almaz military space station and the first station to be inhabited by a crew who safely returned to Earth. Salyut 3 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on June 25, 1974 using a 8K82K launch vehicle. The 18,500-kilogram space station was inserted into orbit at an altitude of 268 to 272 kilometers.

Prior Soviet space stations were only partially successful. The Soviets had launched Salyut 1 in April 1971, but the only crew to have inhabited that station died during their return. Salyut 2 also suffered problems. It was sent up on April 3, 1973 in an attempt to beat the U.S. Skylab station to becoming the first truly successful space station. It depressurized after only 13 days in orbit. Skylab launched on May 14 and was successfully visited by three crews.

Salyut 3 was designed in the Central Design Bureau of Machine Building, headed by Vladimir Chelomei, under the Almaz program. It was 11.61 meters long and had a maximum diameter of 4.15 meters. Its useful volume totaled 47 cubic meters. Two solar panels were laterally mounted to the center of the station.

Cosmonauts visiting the station were primarily assigned to perform photo reconnaissance work. They photographed airfields and missile complexes using a television system and a one-meter diameter telescope. The telescope was strong enough to allow them to identify numbers on ship decks and the types of aircraft on carriers. The film was returned to Earth in a detachable recovery module. It was released from the station and recovered by the Soviets on Sept. 23, 1974. Cosmonauts were also supplied with infrared and topographical cameras, an optical viewfinder and a Nudelman cannon. The cannon and supporting missiles were precautions in case of an attack by an Apollo spacecraft. In addition to reconnaissance work, the cosmonauts also conducted some medical and physical experiments.

Two crews visited Salyut 3. The Soyuz 14 crew, Soviet Air Force cosmonauts Pavel Popovich and Yuri Artyukhin, launched from Baikonur on July 3, 1974. They spent fifteen days on the station, and then returned on July 19. Their spacecraft landed within two kilometers of the target landing site in southeast Dzkezkazgan. The Soyuz 15 crew launched from Baikonur on Aug. 26, 1974. However, the automatic docking system failed and Gennady Sarafanov and Lev Dyomin were unable to dock to the station. They returned and were recovered on Aug. 28. Salyut 3's orbit decayed, and it reentered the Earth's atmosphere on Jan. 24, 1975.


Salyut 4:

Salyut 4 was the third Soviet space station launched into orbit. It took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on Dec. 26, 1974 at 4:15 Universal time. Salyut 4 was very similar to Salyut 1, with the addition of three rotatable solar arrays. Its on-orbit dry mass totaled 18,500 kilograms. It was designed to remain in orbit for approximately 60 days and carried extensive scientific equipment to conduct experiments for this period of time.

Salyut 4 was the second space station devoted primarily to civilian objectives. It carried an X-ray instrument, called the Filin telescope, that had four gas flow proportional counters. Optical sensors and X-ray detectors were outside the station, and power supply and measurement units were inside. The detectors were calibrated using one ground-based and three inflight modes -- inertial orientation, orbital orientation and survey. The large detectors collected data in four energy channels.

Four spacecraft were sent to Salyut 4. One of these was unmanned and another suffered a launch failure. The Soyuz 17 crew, Aleksei Gubarev and Georgi Grechko, launched from Baikonur on Jan. 10, 1975. They were greeted to the station by a note left inside from the preparation crew that read, "Wipe your feet!" They spent 29 days in space, and then returned, landing 100 kilometers northeast of Tselinograd on Feb. 9.

The second mission headed for Salyut 4 was designated Soyuz 18-1. Vasily Lazarev and Oleg Makarov took off on April 5, 1975. However, a launch failure forced the Soviets to abort the flight. The abort system saved the two men, who landed 1,600 kilometers from the launch site, near the China border. The entire flight lasted approximately 21 minutes.

The next and final manned mission to Salyut 4 was Soyuz 18. The spacecraft launched from Baikonur on May 24, 1975 carrying Pyotr Klimuk and Vitali Sevastyanov. While on the station, the men were able to converse with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project crews. Klimuk and Sevastyanov spent 63 days in space before landing 56 kilometers southwest of Arkalyk on July 26.

One last spacecraft was sent to spend three months docked to the station. Engineers wanted to test Soyuz 20 to see how its systems would perform over an extended period of time in space. It launched from Baikonur on Nov. 17, 1975. The spacecraft carried biological specimens, including turtles and plants, so a joint experiment could be conducted with the three-week Cosmos 782 mission. Soyuz landed on Feb. 16, 1976, 56 kilometers southwest of Arkalyk.

Approximately one year later, on Feb. 2, 1977, Salyut 4's propulsion system was used to deorbit it over the Pacific Ocean. The station was destroyed by frictional heating.


Salyut 5:

Salyut 5 was the second successful Soviet Almaz military space station and the last Almaz station launched into orbit. It was structurally similar to Salyut 3 and shared the same official objectives -- test spacecraft systems, design and equipment and conduct scientific and technological research and experiments. Though some science research was done, the station was primarily used for military reconnaissance work. Almaz equipment included a reconnaissance camera, an optical viewfinder, a panoramic instrument for wide coverage of the Earth's surface and an infrared device.

The Salyut 5 design included two solar panels laterally mounted to its center and a detachable recovery module for returning data and materials to the ground. Film could be developed and analyzed in space and returned in the reentry capsules. The station launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, U.S.S.R., using a Proton 8K82K launch vehicle on June 22, 1976. It had an on-orbit dry mass of 19,000 kilograms.

Three spacecraft flew to Salyut 5 during the next two years. Soyuz 21 was the first mission to Salyut 5. During this mission, Boris Volynov and Vitaly Zholobov spent 49 days in space. They launched on July 7, 1976 and returned on Aug. 24. The mission was supposed to last a full two months, but it was cut short because Zholobov was becoming increasingly ill. The two men landed back on Earth, 200 kilometers southwest of Kokchetav, Kazakhstan.

The Soyuz 23 crew, Vyacheslav Zudov and Valery Rozhdestvensky, attempted to dock to Salyut 5 on Oct. 15, 1976 but failed. They were forced to abort the mission. They landed in Lake Tengiz, Kazakhstan, during a blizzard. The recovery crew did not rescue them until the next morning, and they were surprised to find them alive.

The Soyuz 24 crew was the last to visit and inhabit the station. Yuri Glazkov and Viktor Gorbatko set off to begin their 18-day mission on Feb. 8, 1977. Although this mission was much shorter than the Soyuz 21 mission, it was almost as productive. The men landed back on Earth on Feb. 25, 37 kilometers northeast of Arkalyk, a town then located in the Turgaisk region of the Soviet Union.

A fourth mission to Salyut 5 had been planned, but the station's lack of fuel made this impossible. Its orbit decayed, and it reentered the atmosphere on Aug. 8, 1977.


Salyut 6:

The Salyut 6 space station made possible the first long-duration Soviet space missions. The station hosted 16 cosmonaut crews during its approximately five years in orbit, including five crews that stayed for longer than one month. Salyut 6 launched on Sept. 29, 1977 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, U.S.S.R. It was lofted using a Proton booster and upper stage.

As the first of the second-generation Soviet space stations, Salyut 6 demonstrated the use of two docking ports. A total of 35 manned and unmanned spacecraft used these ports. Soyuz spacecraft docked to one port, leaving the other available for visiting Soyuz crews on short-duration missions or Progress resupply vehicles.

A total of twelve Progress spacecraft delivered more than 20 tons of equipment, supplies and fuel during the station's lifetime, which allowed cosmonauts to spend increasingly longer periods of time in space. Progress spacecraft docked automatically to the aft port and were then opened and unlocked by cosmonauts on the station. Fuel was transferred automatically with supervision from the ground crew.

Salyut 6 was also visited by the first non-U.S., non-U.S.S.R. space traveler. Vladimir Remek, a Czechoslovakian cosmonaut from the Intercosmos program, visited the station in March 1978. The Intercosmos program enabled cosmonaut researchers from Soviet bloc countries or countries sympathetic to the Soviet Union to visit the space station. Other researchers that visited Salyut 6 came from Hungary, Poland, Romania, Cuba, Mongolia, Vietnam, East Germany and Bulgaria. Although three of these men stayed for more than two months, most of them briefly visited with crews already occupying the station.

The first crew was supposed to occupy the station in October 1977, but their docking attempts failed. Rescheduling had to be done, which resulted in the risky winter launch of Soyuz 26. Winter launches were not favored because of the poor conditions at Baikonur and the landing zone at that time of year. However, Yuri Romanenko and Georgi Grechko launched without major problems on Dec. 10, 1977 and spent over one month on Salyut 6.

Overall, cosmonauts inhabited the station for a total of 676 days. Their time was filled with numerous experiments and studies. The instruments they used included an infrared telescope, a mapping camera, a radio telescope, an Earth photography camera, a furnace for heating samples, plant growth facilities, a treadmill, cardiology equipment and a gamma ray detector.

There was also a changeover from the Soyuz to the Soyuz-T manned spacecraft during this time. The new vehicle was tested for three months from December 1979 to March 1980, and by November it was being tested using a three-man crew. This was the first time since the Soyuz 11 flight in 1971 that three cosmonauts were able to fly a mission together.

After the last Salyut 6 cosmonauts left the station, an experimental transport logistics spacecraft docked to it. Cosmos 1267 launched on April 25, 1981, orbited in space for two months and then docked to Salyut 6 on June 19. Cosmos 1267 proved that large modules could dock automatically to space stations -- an important step toward the later development of Mir and the International Space Station.

Cosmos 1267 remained docked to Salyut 6 until both were deorbited and reentered the Earth's atmosphere over the south Pacific Ocean on June 29, 1982. They were destroyed by frictional heating during descent.


Salyut 7:

Salyut 7 was the last of the Salyut space stations and the precursor to the Mir modular space station. It was launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, U.S.S.R., on April 19, 1982. It stayed in orbit for approximately nine years, hosted nine cosmonaut crews and spent more than 800 days inhabited.

The station's structure was similar to Salyut 6, the previous second-generation Soviet space station, but also featured a few upgrades. The 18,900-kilogram Salyut 7 station had three solar panels mounted to the outside, but unlike Salyut 6, there was now the ability to mount secondary panels on their sides. Two docking ports were located on opposite ends of the station -- one for Progress resupply vehicles and another wider one for Heavy Cosmos modules.

Improvements were made inside the station as well. Cosmonauts now had electric stoves, a refrigerator and constant hot water. The seats at the command consoles were redesigned to more closely resemble bicycle seats. Two portholes let in ultraviolet light to help kill germs and prevent infections. An X-ray detection system replaced the BST-1M telescope used on Salyut 6.

Long duration missions could be even longer on Salyut 7, partially because of improved medical, biological and exercise stations. In fact, Salyut 7 cosmonauts set two long-duration records. First, cosmonauts Anatoly Berezovoi and Valentin Lebedev spent 211 days in space in 1982, returning home on Soyuz-T7. Then Leonid Kizim, Vladimir Solovyev and Oleg Atkov stayed in space for 236 days in 1984.

Salyut 7 was also visited by two important women -- the second female cosmonaut, Svetlana Savitskaya, and the first British astronaut, Helen Sharman. During Savitskaya's second Salyut 7 visit in 1984, she participated in one of at least five spacewalks necessary to fix a rocket motor system leak, making her the first woman to perform an extravehicular activity. Sharman remains the only British astronaut ever sent into space.

Eleven missions were planned to go to Salyut 7, but two could not be completed. Soyuz-T8 reached the station but could not dock, and Soyuz-T10-1 had to be aborted on the launch pad when a fire broke out. The two Soyuz-T10-1 cosmonauts were ejected from their spacecraft and landed safely just four or five kilometers from the pad.

Aside from the many experiments and observations made on Salyut 7, the station also tested the docking and use of large modules with an orbiting space station. The modules were called "Heavy Cosmos modules." They helped engineers develop technology necessary to build Mir.

Cosmos 1443 was launched on March 2, 1983 using a Proton SL-13 launch vehicle. It docked to Salyut 7 on March 10. The Soyuz-T9 crew used it for two weeks, and then it was jettisoned. It reentered Earth's atmosphere on Sept. 19.

The next and final module, Cosmos 1686, was launched on Sept. 27, 1985. It docked to the station on Oct. 2. There was no recovery vehicle on this module. The Soyuz-T14 crew used it and then left it to support the station using its own onboard systems. The systems allowed Salyut 7 to continue unmanned operations through 1986.

One final crew visited Salyut 7 after this time. Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyev, the crew for the Soyuz-T15 mission, transferred supplies and equipment from Salyut 7 to the then-orbiting Mir space station. When they left, Cosmos 1686 boosted Salyut 7 into a higher orbit in preparation for another cosmonaut visit, but no further missions were sent there.

The station-module complex deorbited on Feb. 7, 1991. It was destroyed during reentry, reportedly scattering debris over parts of Argentina and Chile.


Mir:

The Mir Space Station was officially built to conduct studies and experiments of interest to science and the Russian economy. When the Mir program began, the station's lifetime was estimated to be five years. The last crew left the station in August 1999 -- more than 13 years after the first component was launched.

Mir Construction

Crew members have been ferried to Mir using the Soyuz-TM spacecraft and the NASA space shuttle. In all, 43 space travelers have called Mir "home," and 59 others have visited for periods of time less than one month. Sixteen space travelers stayed on Mir for multiple long duration missions.

The Mir Core, the base unit of the station, was launched on Feb. 20, 1986. It has a mass of 20,100 kilograms, a length of 13.13 meters and a maximum diameter of 4.15 meters. Its pressurized volume equals 90 cubic meters. The solar panels have a total area of 76 square meters. Five modules are attached to the core.

The Progress resupply craft ferried supplies to the crews from 1986 to 1989. After that time, an improved Progress-M resupply craft was used. Both types of resupply spacecraft were launched using Proton rocket launch vehicles. They each had a total mass of 7,450 kilograms, a maximum diameter of 2.7 meters and a length of 7.2 meters. The Mir station core and modules were put in orbit by a Proton SL-13 launch vehicle. The SL-13 was designed in 1965 as a more capable follow-on to the two-stage SL-9, although the SL-13 was much larger. Its total mass at the launch of Salyut 6 was 697.1 tons, and its total length was 59.8 meters. Its first flight was in 1968. The vehicle's first stage uses RD-253 engines, which provide 167,000 kgf in a vacuum. All three stages use Nitrogen tetroxide/UDMH propellants.

The extensive research on Mir focuses on two main areas: human life in space (Microgravity Sciences, Life Space Sciences, and Space Technology Development) and observational sciences (Earth Observation and Sciences, and Space Sciences). The cosmonauts use themselves (and plants and animals) as guinea pigs as they study the influence of gravity on biological processes. These life space science experiments provide insights into the impact of weightlessness on space operations.

Experiments in fluid mechanics, combustion, material sciences and processes, and biotechnology, require detailed step-by-step procedures to yield high-quality scientific data. The results have led to the design and development of new technology (Again ranging from building space platforms to create new debris protection devices and materials). Some popular experiments have involved the study of protein crystal growths.

In 1991, as the Soviet Union collapses underneath, Mir's cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev agrees to stay for a second term onboard Mir to make possible a politically important visit of Toktar Aubakirov, a cosmonaut from newly independent Kazakhstan. However, the US media, portray Krikalev as a stranded cosmonaut, unable to return home due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On February 4 1993, the Progress M-15 cargo ship separated from the Mir space station and at the distance 230 meters deployed a giant foil-thin screen. It was known as Znamya-2 or "banner" experiment. The Russian creators of this fantastic technology claimed it could be used in the future for illuminating starving for light cities beyond the Arctic Circle. Many observers also said it has been the first test of the so-called solar sail propulsion. Numerous observers on Earth saw Znamya, even after it was discarded from the Progress.

On January 8, the Soyuz TM-18 spacecraft blasted off toward Mir with a crew of three including medical specialist Valery Polyakov. As his crewmates returned to Earth in July, Polyakov remained onboard Mir until March of 1995, which is long enough to make a trip to Mars. He established an absolute record for human presence in space on a single mission - 438 days.

In the midst of the Russian-American joint operations on Mir, the station went through the worst year in its history marked by a fire and a collision with a cargo ship. These accidents soured forever the relationship between NASA and Russian Space Agency, while US media made Mir a favorite subject for attacks and ridicule.

On February 23, 1997, during a routine ignition of an oxygen-generating canister, cosmonaut Alexander Lazutkin suddenly faces a flame going out of control. Before the crew puts on gas masks and extinguishes the fire, a multi-module complex, including the Soyuz spacecraft, their only "lifeboat" is filled with smoke. Fortunately, the station's life-support system eventually "clears the air."

On June 25, 1997, the same Russian crew, of Vasiliy Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin which just several months ago was battling flames on Mir, plus NASA astronaut Michael Foale, found themselves in the middle of the worst collision in space history. During a docking test with the use of remote control onboard the station, Tsibliev lost control of a tumbling cargo ship. The vehicle collides with the station and seconds later, the crew onboard Mir hears a hissing sound of air escaping their vessel. Miraculously, almost instantly, the crewmembers were able to locate the air leak to Spektr module. After short struggle to find cutting tools, they severed the cables leading into Spektr and safely sealed the hatches.

On Friday, March 23, 2001, after 15 years of dedicated service to Russia, the venerable Mir spacestation was intentionally de-orbited to reenter the Earth's atmosphere and crash into the South Pacific Ocean.


Questions:

  • Describe the SkyLab mission and its accomplishments.
  • Describe the Saylut series and its goals.
  • How did the Salyut technology lead to Mir? How long was the Mir mission and why did it end?