Category The Story of Manned Space Stations

1962—THE MODE DECISION FOR APOLLO—JOHN HOUBOLT

At first glance, the method for getting a man on the moon would not appear to have much relevance to the future of manned space stations, but in fact the method that was eventually chosen had a profound effect. The choices were simple enough, and there were three methods to be chosen from: Direct Ascent, Earth Orbit Rendezvous (EOR), or Lunar Orbit Rendezvous (LOR). There were others, but they were mostly far too risky/crazy to even be considered, the most ludicrous being the proposal that one man be launched to the moon where he would wait until such time that NASA figured out how to get him back!

Direct Ascent seemed the simplest of all: launch a giant rocket straight at the moon, without pausing in Earth orbit, land on the moon, and launch straight back to Earth. However, there were drawbacks, first, the rocket would be massive, far larger than the Saturn V that was eventually selected, and its launch facilities would be equally large and demanding. Second, the crew would launch at the top of this massive stack on their backs, as had been the case with Mercury and Gemini, which would mean that they would have to land on the moon in the same way; in other words they would not be able to see where they were landing. Various contraptions were devised to allow the crew (and their instrument panels) to swivel to an upright position for the lunar landing, but none seemed very practical, and of course the instrument panels would have to carry all of the information for lift-off, translunar coast, and landing, which would pose a daunting challenge to design and to operate. Third, imagine backing a vehicle of the size of an Atlas rocket down to the lunar surface; even if you managed it, you would be faced with a trek down a very long ladder to get to the surface.

The most supported mode initially was that of EOR; certainly it was supported strongly by the Marshall Space Flight Center under the directorship of von Braun. Cynics suggested that they supported this mode because it would need several rocket launches, and rockets were, of course, the responsibility of Marshall. This mode basically consisted of two or more launches into Earth orbit, where the moon bound vehicle would be assembled and fueled before setting off for the moon. It had the benefit that all rendezvous operations would take place in Earth orbit, allowing an immediate abort option. The downside was that it was more complicated due to its reliance on multiple launches, orbital rendezvous, dockings, assembly, and refuelling. However, EOR naturally included the option of building a staging post or space station to act as an assembly point for the moon ship; certainly this was favored by von Braun himself. Had this happened, our space station story may have had a very different beginning for NASA.

The third mode option, LOR, was a late comer, being first proposed in I960 by a man named John Houbolt from the Langley Research Center to almost anyone who would listen to him, including all of the potential sub-contractors, and many within NASA. In June 1962 von Braun put his weight behind the LOR plan, and then in July NASA announced that would adopt LOR as the primary option for Project Apollo. It had the advantage that it would require only one launch vehicle which would contain all of the components required for the mission, and NASA chose the Saturn V to serve this role. The downside was that it required a rendezvous and docking in moon orbit where there was no abort option. Also the Lunar Module (LM) only had one ascent engine; if it failed, the crew of two would have a longer stay on the moon’s surface than anticipated. However, the biggest advantage was that it could be implemented much more rapidly than the other two modes, and therefore get men on the moon within Kennedy’s deadline. Nevertheless, LOR left NASA with nothing to build on. Had the challenge from Kennedy not

1962—THE MODE DECISION FOR APOLLO—JOHN HOUBOLT

John Houbolt

arisen, there was a much more logical, albeit slower, way of getting man to the moon.

ENERGIA FLYS WITH POLYUS

On the 15 May 1997 the Soviet Union achieved something that had eluded it for many years, the launch of a heavy lift booster. As we have seen in earlier chapters the ill-fated N-1 moon rocket endured four failures before its cancelation, but the brand new Energia rocket was launched successfully first time. The payload for its maiden launch seemed a very simple one at first glance. The Soviets reported that it was a mock-up of a manufacturing and material processing platform known as Polyus, future versions of which would be used either as add-on modules for existing space stations, or as free-flying platforms for particular missions. It had a mass of about 80 tonnes and was slightly larger than the existing Mir base block. Unfortunately, in

ENERGIA FLYS WITH POLYUS

Polyus on first Energia—note “Mir-2” written on the side

this case the platform did not perform as designed; whilst the Energia rocket per­formed perfectly, the payload fired its own insertion engine at the wrong orientation and propelled itself back toward the Earth, destroying itself in the process.

Equally unfortunately, all of the above description of the payload from the Soviets was totally inaccurate. Polyus was indeed its name, and it did weigh about 80 tonnes, but in actual fact Polyus was a military orbital weapons platform proto­type, a system that apparently Soviet Premier Gorbachev had ordered not to be launched in order not to jeopardize his delicate negotiations with U. S. President Reagan. Basically, Polyus was the Soviet’s response to Reagan’s “Star Wars” Strat­egic Defense Initiative. It consisted of many pre-existing space components like a TKS tug, which was similar in design to the FGB or Functional Cargo Block that would be launched as Zarya, the first component of the International Space Station (ISS) many years later. It was also thought to include defensive armaments, and test targets that could be released to test its on-board weaponry. None of these features were ever confirmed, and in fact very little information on this “battle platform’’ has ever come to light. The answers lie at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean for anyone that wishes to look.

MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY (MOL)—UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

With NASA now enjoying great success with their manned spaceflight program, the U. S. Air Force wanted to be more involved. Their earlier project DynaSoar, which

was to have been a manned orbital space plane, was in budgetary limbo, and NASA had not selected as many Air Force candidates for astronaut training as the top brass would have liked. Air Force manned space projects were not new: before Project Mercury it had created the “Man In Space Soonest” or MISS program, but this had been ignored when President Eisenhower decided in 1958 that he wanted manned spaceflight to be handled by a civilian agency, and established NASA.

In 1962, the USAF began to look closely at the proposed Gemini program, and realised that it held great potential to be modified for Air Force use, it had the added bonus that it would be tested first by NASA and it would be ready to fly much earlier than their own DynaSoar. With the addition of a cylindrical pressurized habitat that would be launched attached to the bottom of a modified Gemini spacecraft, the idea grew into MODS, or the Manned Orbital Development Station. However, even this interim project would not be ready early enough in the eyes of the Air Force brass, and it was proposed to fly a number of Gemini missions, in partnership with NASA, under the banner of “Blue Gemini”. Unfortunately, the potential of this joint pro­gram was undermined when Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara demanded that not only should the Air Force take over the entire Gemini program, but all future low-Earth-orbit missions as well. NASA officials were naturally aghast at this pros­pect, and protested strongly that such a move would destroy America’s plans to land on the moon by the end of the decade. Perhaps more surprisingly, senior USAF officers were similarly opposed to this plan, because they did not want their interim plans for a Blue Gemini, which they viewed purely as a means of gaining flight experience, to interfere with the larger DynaSoar project for which they had great hopes. Upon hearing of the Air Force’s objections McNamara appeared to back down, and a new agreement was reached which merely allowed the installation of Air Force experiments on NASA Gemini flights. No sooner had this been agreed, McNamara took his revenge for the USAF’s lack of support as he saw it, and cancelled both Project MODS and Blue Gemini. In fact these were just two of thirteen new projects for which the Air Force had sought funding in January 1963, and McNamara canceled them all, bringing to mind something about a secretary scorned! In December 1963 he rounded it all off by canceling DynaSoar as well. A bone was thrown to the Air Force, however, in the form of a new project known as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). Essentially, MOL was MODS reborn. MOL was to be launched with its crew in a Gemini capsule, to be used once, and then discarded.

It was not until August 1965 that official funding for MOL came through when President Johnson allocated $1.5 billion to the program. With the program now in development, it was decided to begin the construction of launch facilities. MOL called for a base that could launch the vehicle into a polar orbit, a first for manned spaceflight, and so Vandenberg Air Force base on the California coast was chosen. Construction began in March 1966 of Space Launch Complex 6, or Slick 6 as it became known. The first real success of the MOL program came in November that same year when an already flown Gemini spacecraft, that had been modified to have a hatch installed in its heatshield, was launched not from Vandenberg but from Cape Canaveral atop of a Titan IIIC booster with a Titan II propellant tank standing in for the MOL beneath the capsule. The capsule was successfully recovered and repre­sented the first reusable spacecraft launch and recovery. However, by the end of that first year, despite continuing progress, the program was faltering under the load of ever increasing costs, and a falling budget. Also becoming a problem was the ever increasing weight of the MOL combination, which in turn required the man-rated version of the Titan IIIC, known as the Titan IIIM, to be upgraded with additional segments to its solid rocket boosters. However, despite the program’s difficulties, progress was being made, Slick 6 was nearing completion, and the Air Force had recruited 14 astronauts.

The MOL pilots were recruited in three groups in much the same way that NASA appointed its astronauts. The first group, which was chosen in 1965, consisted of eight pilots; six from the U. S. Air Force, and perhaps surprisingly, two from the U. S. Navy. They were:

Michael J. Adams, USAF Albert H. Crews, USAF John L. Finley, USN Richard E. Lawyer, USAF Lachlan Macleay, USAF Francis G. Neubeck, USAF James M. Taylor, USAF Richard H. Truly, USN

This group was different from the NASA astronaut selections in that they were all active military, and were all pilots, a moniker that they retained rather than calling themselves astronauts. All were handpicked from a list of Aerospace Research Pilot School (ARPS) students, instructors, and graduates by Chuck Yeager, the ARPS commandant.

The second group were selected the following year, and consisted of five more pilots:

Robert F. (Bob) Overmyer, USMC Henry W. (Hank) Hartsfield, USAF Robert L. Crippen, USN Karol J. Bobko, USAF Charles Gordon Fullerton, USAF

Again, one year later, in 1967, a third and final group was chosen, only four pilots this time:

Robert T. Herres, USAF Robert H. Lawrence, Jr., USAF Dr. Donald H. Peterson, USAF James A. Abrahamson, USAF

MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY (MOL)—UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

First MOL astronaut selection

MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY (MOL)—UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Second MOL astronaut selection

MANNED ORBITING LABORATORY (MOL)—UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Third MOL astronaut selection

Of these fourteen pilots nearly all would go on to continue their careers with some distinction. From the first group, Mike Adams left the MOL program and transferred to the USAF X-15 program where he successfully completed six flights before he was killed on his seventh flight after the aircraft experienced technical difficulties that put it into a spin at about 206,000 ft. Adams recovered from this spin, but the aircraft disintegrated under the 15 g loads and fell from the sky. Richard Lawyer left and had a distinguished test pilot career, before re-entering the MOL story toward the end of his life as we will discuss later. Robert Lawrence would have been the first African American in space, but he was killed in 1967 whilst flying in the backseat of an F104 on an ARPS mission to practise X-15-type landing approaches. The pilot of the aircraft, Major Harvey Royer, misjudged his approach and hit the runway hard, the undercarriage collapsing and launching the aircraft back into the air, now ablaze at its rear. It landed 2,000 ft further down the runway and disintegrated as it bounced once more. Both pilots ejected successfully, but Lawrence’s parachute failed to deploy, and he was killed—Major Royer survived the accident.

The MOL program received a shock in June 1969. All of the major program officials fully realized that the program was late and over budget, and they certainly feared that when the budgets were announced that would be left short, but it seems that no-one had actually considered complete cancellation of the project, which is what President Richard Nixon did. The MOL pilots were offered the opportunity to transfer to NASA. Seven took up the offer, and all went on to become important members of the space shuttle program. Richard Truly flew STS-2 and STS-8 before retiring from NASA, and later became the 8th NASA Administrator between 1989 and 1992. Robert Crippen was the pilot of the very first space shuttle flight aboard Columbia in 1981, and went on to fly two more missions as shuttle commander. Ironically he was to command the first mission of the space shuttle from the same Vandenberg Slick 6 launch complex that MOL was to have launched from, but that mission was canceled after the Challenger accident, and Crippen retired from NASA. He too later returned in a management capacity, acting as Director of the Johnson Space Center between 1992 and 1995. Karol Bobko also flew the shuttle three times, once as pilot and twice as commander. Bobko is still involved in the spaceflight business as Vice President of SpaceHab. Gordon Fullerton still works for NASA as a research pilot. He flew Enterprise in the Approach and Landing tests, and later on STS-3 and STS-51F, the latter a Spacelab mission which to this date holds the distinction of being the only in-flight abort of the shuttle program. Henry Hartsfield was another to fly the shuttle three times, once as pilot on STS-4, and twice when he commanded STS-41D, the first flight of Discovery, and STS-61A, a Spacelab mission that was the first in history to have an eight-person crew. Unfortunately, Bob Overmeyer was killed in March 1996 whilst piloting an aerobatic aircraft; but he had successfully flown two shuttle flights, his first as pilot on board the first opera­tional shuttle flight, STS-5, and the second in command of flight STS-51B, a Spacelab mission. Don Peterson flew just one mission on the space shuttle, STS-6, and was the only member of his group not to fly as pilot but as mission specialist. However, his mission specialist designation allowed him also to be the only member of the group to carry out a spacewalk.

Colonel Richard Lawyer re-enters our story in June of 2005, when artefacts from the abandoned MOL program were found at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. A room at the launch complex 5/6 museum that had apparently not been opened for many years was being checked by security officers when two blue MOL spacesuits that had been used for training were found to be in almost perfect condition, one belonged to Lt. Col. Richard Lawyer. Other MOL spacesuits are on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio, and at the Johnson Space Center. The two newly discovered suits were donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Unfortunately Colonel Lawyer died later that same year. To the very end he had kept his vow to keep his country’s secrets. While very forthcoming about general aspects of the MOL program, he would never say a word about its actual mission. He would simply say, “I am not at liberty to deny or confirm the reported mission for MOL.’’

MORE ADDITIONS TO MIR

The delivery of Kvant allowed some cargo to be brought to Mir as well; one of the items stuffed inside the new laboratory was a new set of solar arrays that the crew would locate on the base block of Mir. It arrived in two sections, so the crew would need to venture outside twice to finish the work. During the previous Extravehicular Activity (EVA), physicians on the ground had noticed irregularities in Faveikin’s heart rhythm which caused them some concern; however, after further studies it was decided to allow him to carry out installation assembly. The two spacewalks were carried out without incident, and the installation added about 2.5 kW of power to the station’s total supply. Unfortunately, the spacewalks allowed the doctors on the ground to further study Faveikin’s heart, and they came to the conclusion that they could not tell enough from the remote telemetry to perform a proper diagnosis. Poor Faveikin was told to try and relax, and a plan was put in place to get him home as soon as possible. The next crew would arrive in July, and would consist of Aleksandr Viktorenko, Aleksandr Aleksandrov, and a Syrian visitor, Mohammed Faris. In order to relieve Faveikin, Alexandrov would replace him on the permanent crew and Faveikin would return to Earth on board Soyuz-TM 2 with Viktorenko and Faris in July 1987.

Romanenko had now been in space for the best part of a year, and the end of his flight was approaching. He had hoped to increase the endurance record to a full year, but his increasing testiness with the ground and his crewmates convinced Soviet officials to bring him home short of his goal. He returned to Earth on board Soyuz-TM 3 with Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Anatoli Fevchenko who had been launched on a taxi mission toward the end of December. Fevchenko was another member of the Buran test pilot group and he, like Igor Volk, was flying to check the landing ability of a cosmonaut after exposure to weightlessness. Immediately after landing he was flown by helicopter to a Tu-154 civil airliner which he used to simulate Buran landings. The Buran program was in crisis, however, and faced cancelation at any moment. Despite this fact, Buran made its first flight, unmanned, in November 1988, completing one orbit before returning to the launch site under remote control, accompanied by a MiG-25 chase plane flown by Igor Volk. This flight was a sig­nificant achievement (the U. S. shuttle could not be flown unmanned, as it at least required a crew member to lower the landing gear) but it had come too late to save the program. The planned flight to Mir, which was scheduled for December 1994, was canceled, and the program itself was concluded in June 1993 by Boris Yeltsin.

It would fall to the very next crew to break the one year in space barrier. Vladimir Titov, finally breaking his jinx, and Musa Manarov, a rookie cosmonaut, were to fly to Mir on board Soyuz-TM 4 with Levchenko, and return to Earth 365 days later on Soyuz-TM 6. At the end of their marathon flight, Dr. Valeri Polyakov would begin the first of his record-breaking flights. The timing of his flight was important; he wanted the chance to observe Titov and Manarov whilst they were still in space to see for himself the medical effects of such a long flight, before he began one of his own. His mission continued well, and when Titov and Manarov returned to Earth he was joined by Aleksandr Volkov and Sergei Krikalev who, it was planned, he would finish the long-duration mission with. However, on the ground things were not proceeding so well. Volkov and Krikalev had been trained to receive the next new modules to expand the Mir complex, but the construction of those modules had slowed to a crawl; there simply was not the money to complete them, let alone launch them. Finally it was decided to bring the crew home and mothball the station for the next five months. Polyakov was devastated, despite having spent 240 days in orbit, and upon his landing immediately began canvassing for another, longer mission.

Aleksandr Viktorenko and Aleksandr Serebrov were the next occupants of Mir; they launched on board Soyuz TM-8 on 5 September 1989, and entered the station a few days later. The second Mir expansion module was now ready after the delays, and on 26 November it was launched to dock at Mir’s front port. The flight to Mir was not entirely smooth; one solar array initially failed to deploy, but was shaken loose by putting the module into a slow roll. Even when it arrived at the station, its Kurs automatic docking system aborted the first docking attempt; however a second dock­ing four days later was successful. Kvant 2, as it was known, then swung itself to an upper docking port by using its Ljappa “swing arm’’ to rotate itself 90 degrees before reattaching itself to Mir. When the cosmonauts entered the new module they found three new compartments. The nearest compartment gave the cosmonauts some new home comforts, a shower, and a second toilet. The middle area contained room for scientific experiments, but could also be used as a back-up airlock. The compartment at the end of the module was intended to be Mir’s main airlock; it had enough room to store extra spacesuits, and a wide outward opening. One of the reasons for the wider hatch was also contained in the area, the Soviet version of a manned maneuvr – ing unit, called Icarus. The first test of the Icarus unit, which was intended to be used later with the Buran space shuttle, would be slightly different from the one under­taken by NASA’s Bruce McCandless and Bob Stewart on the shuttle mission

STS-41B five years earlier. Serebrov and Viktorenko remained tethered to the station throughout their test, and whilst McCandless and Stewart had been able to fly free of the shuttle up to distances of 320 ft, the cosmonauts never reached more than 150 ft. The reason for this, of course, was the fact that if the unit had failed, the shuttle would have been able to go and collect McCandless or Stewart; Mir could not really go anywhere to retrieve anyone. This would prove to be the first and last use of the Icarus system, it was thought to be too complicated and risky to use, and eventually was left outside the station to free up space in the airlock.

Подпись: Mir as it appeared in 1993

The next new Mir module, Kristall, arrived at the station in June of 1990. Once again the first docking was aborted by the automatic system, and again the second attempt was successful. In the same manner as Kvant 2 before it, Kristall’s own small robot arm moved the module to its dedicated docking port on the node, directly opposite Kvant 2, giving the station a “T” shape. Kristall’s interior was very different from Kvant 2; it was mostly fitted out with furnaces to allow metallurgy and crystal – growth experiments. At the far end of the module was a docking unit to allow the Soviet shuttle Buran to dock; this would never be used by Buran, but it would be used once by a suitably fitted out Soyuz, and then much later and ironically, by the U. S. space shuttle. Although both of the new modules added significant internal volume to

MORE ADDITIONS TO MIR

Soyuz-TM 12 crew, with British astronaut Helen Sharman

the station, it was still a great deal less than Skylab had provided its crews, and the total weight of the complex was about 12 tons less than Skylab too.

Mir now settled into a period of long-duration missions intermingled with visits by international cosmonauts. Visitors from Japan, Great Britain, Austria, France, and the newly reunified Germany took place over the next four years.

The most significant long-duration missions were undertaken by Sergei Krikalev who spent 311 days in 1991/2 in addition to the 151 days that he had accumulated in 1988/9. Whilst he was there, the world below him changed. He was launched as a Soviet citizen, but the revolution that caused the Soviet Union to collapse also returned him to Earth as a Russian citizen. He was dubbed “The Last Soviet Citizen” by the press. He would go on to fly two more mission to the ISS, to bring his total time spent in space to 803 days; over 50 more than the previous record holder. At the time of writing Krikalev is due to return to the ISS as commander of Expedition 19 in March 2009.

However, the man to have spent the most time in orbit in a single mission is Dr. Valeri Polyakov. In January 1994 he returned to the station with Viktor Afanasyev and Yury Usachev on Soyuz-TM 18. Polyakov had managed to sell the idea of an ultra-long-duration flight to the space program officials on the basis that it would attract new international interest in joint missions, interest that would

MORE ADDITIONS TO MIR

Dr. Valeri Polyakov

bring much needed currency to the now Russian space program. On his arrival, he was welcomed by Aleksandr Serebrov and Vasily Tsibliyev, who were due to return to Earth a few days later. Tsibliyev was on his first space flight, and Serebrov his last after four missions. When they undocked from the station, Tsibliyev flew a fly-by to take photographs of Mir. Unfortunately, the Soyuz gave the Kristall module a glancing blow. Worse collisions were to come in later years for both Tsibliyev and Mir, but for now no damage was done, and the spacecraft returned to Earth without further incident. Polyakov could be forgiven for thinking that his much-wished-for mission might be over before it hardly began, but no damage had been done to the station either, and the mission proceeded. His stay, beyond being almost indescrib­ably long, was also uneventful, and on 22 March 1995 he climbed into Soyuz-TM 20 along with Aleksandr Viktorenko and Yelena Kondakova to return home. He had spent almost 438 days in orbit, and when his capsule landed in Kazakhstan he walked from it to a nearby chair, a tremendous achievement. He also stole a cigarette from a friend nearby, but could hardly be blamed for that. He sipped a small brandy and inwardly celebrated his mission. His record still stands today, and it is unlikely to be broken until man ventures to Mars.

Altogether, 28 “main expeditions” worked aboard Mir, and they were visited by many short-term crews. A total of 104 men and women visited Mir, including 42 Soviet or Russian citizens. The remainder comprised 44 from America, 5 from France, 3 from the European Space Agency, 2 from Germany, and one each from Syria, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Japan, the United Kingdom, Austria, Slovakia, and Canada.

On 23 March 2001, Mir was de-orbited over the Pacific Ocean, with any hard­ware that survived the entry process falling harmlessly into the sea. It was truly the end of a remarkable era; for 15 years Mir had orbited the Earth, and whilst in its final years it may not have been pretty, it was the greatest single achievement yet in the history of manned spaceflight.

BIRTH OF ALMAZ AND SALYUT—SERGEI KOROLEV AND VLADIMIR CHELOMEI

On the Soviet side it was all about the competition between two implacable rivals; Sergei Korolev head of the OKB-1 design bureau and responsible for all of the Soviet Unions space successes so far, and Vladimir Chelomei, head of the OKB-52 design bureau, which had a great deal of experience with missiles, but no track record in space. Korolev had been tasked with developing the Soviet lunar program in order to compete directly with NASA. Chelomei, who had the support of the military, was designing a manned surveillance platform, which he called Almaz, to be serviced by a manned ferry/cargo craft called the TKS. The crew of three would be launched with the Almaz station aboard a returnable capsule, gaining entry to the station via a hatch in the heat shield. They would be launched with as much food and water as possible, but at some point a TKS would be flown to a docking by another crew (automatic dockings had not yet been developed) to facilitate resupply and crew exchange. Chelomei’s design, whilst certainly innovative, and more flexible than the USAF MOL, suffered from his own and his bureau’s lack of real spacecraft experience, and soon fell far behind schedule.

Korolev, however, was having his own problems with his new Soyuz spacecraft design. The first Soyuz launch was rushed before it was really ready, culminating in April 1967 with the death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. But Korolev did not live to see this. He died in January 1966 during a routine operation. Vasily Mishin had the unenviable task of replacing Korolev, and his task was not helped by the fact that he and Chelomei hated one another to the point that they could not stand to be in the same room together, making collaboration or co-operation virtually impossible.

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

NASA had desired a space station since the demise of Skylab in 1979, but the financial and technical constraints of the space shuttle program had made such an undertaking impossible. As we have already seen, the Soviet Union had made great strides in space technology and usability, and were far ahead of the Americans in this area of manned spaceflight. NASA was eager to use the space shuttle to gain back some of the ground that had been lost.

Many attempts had been made by the then NASA Administrator James Beggs to persuade the President and Congress to fund development of a new space station but he had always been unsuccessful. Despite this fact, in 1982 NASA went ahead and obtained eight different designs from the big aerospace contractors of the time, hoping that one of them would finally convince Congress of the value of a new station. Most of the contractors, however, came up with designs geared toward servicing and launching spacecraft rather than purely scientific research stations.

Finally, in January 1984, despite great opposition from some of his advisors, President Ronald Reagan announced the new space station in his State of the Union address, and directed NASA to assemble it within a decade. International partners such as Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency (ESA) would provide hardware for the station, as well as technical support. NASA was to keep the first two years as a low-key definitions program in order not to incite the many scientists and military leaders who were against the project.

NASA had narrowed down the design options to four by March 1984, and the main baseline configuration chosen was the “Power Tower” design which had been submitted by Boeing/Grumman. The main reason for this choice was that it allowed the most flexibility for future expansion without adversely changing the stations overall mass; it kept NASA’s options open. The Power Tower provided a clear area for shuttle dockings, as well as predefined attachments for specific temporary pay­loads. It was thought that the entire assembly could be carried out by 12 shuttle launches over a З-year period, but other contractors doubted this. In late 1985 NASA

"We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic and scientific gain. Tonight, / am directing NASA to develop a permanently manned space station and to do it within a decade."

Freedom: The U. S. strikes backPresident Ronald Rengnn State of the Union Message January 25. 1984

Подпись:
Reagan gives state of the union message

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

Rockwell “Dual Keel” design 1985

changed its baseline configuration, and abandoned the “Power Tower” concept that it had already spent a considerable amount of money on due to complaints from potential crews and engineers who felt that the design would not prove stable enough for scientific experiments. The “Dual Keel” design became the new baseline. It was based on Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas designs, and was chosen because it was felt that it would provide a much stiffer structure, and therefore a better microgravity environment for experimentation. The crew complement was increased to eight to allow more scientific work to be carried out.

In 1988, space station Freedom, as it was now officially known, was going to cost at least $14.5 billion and would require 10 or 11 shuttle launches to complete. And it was felt by many that NASA was playing down the true cost by not including all shuttle launch costs. In addition, there were doubts that the space shuttle could reliably service such a station. The space shuttle was, of course, central to the plans to construct the space station. Its unique capability to carry large payloads into orbit and have a crew on board capable of joining the pieces together meant that literally nothing else could do the job. The United States was seriously lacking an unmanned heavy lift launch vehicle; the shuttle had been imposed on all commercial and military customers as the only game in town. Consequently, the space station and all other launch customers were left in disarray by the disaster that befell the space shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986. The fact that the accident had largely been caused by NASA’s own mismanagement, as well as a flawed booster design, eroded confidence in NASA in other areas, and that included designing, building, launching, assem­bling, and maintaining a manned space station.

By far the biggest problem, however, was that NASA was trying to please everybody with the space station design. It was trying to offer a garage for assembly of interplanetary spacecraft, a massive variety of scientific laboratory facilities, including animal research, variable gravity, materials processing, life sciences and the like. The power requirements for all of these capabilities were massive, and would need solar arrays of the greatest quality. One station simply could not carry out all of these contradictory requirements; not without being a massively expensive leviathan, which is what it had become. The program was far too large for its own good, and NASA seemed more concerned with pushing the frontiers of technology instead of designing a station that they could actually launch and maintain within a reasonable budget. NASA needed to decide on the station’s primary use. Contradictions were caused because, for instance, animal research or spacecraft assembly would adversely affect the microgravity environment needed for materials processing or other scien­tific experiments.

The situation was not improved by the Department of Defense, which in 1987 demanded full access to the station to carry out military research. NASA’s partners were incensed, and the situation had to be quickly resolved to ensure continued involvement. By 1989 the estimated cost had grown again, to $19 billion; and this was after NASA had deleted some capabilities from the station and reduced its power requirements. In addition, a new program to improve the performance of the space shuttles solid rocket motors was required to launch the ever-increasing weight of the station, which increased the overall cost even further. This trend was to continue until 1990, when Congress demanded a major rethink. The existing design, as well as being overweight and a long way over budget, was also going to require far more main­tenance once it was built than NASA had planned for. It was estimated that around 3,000 hours of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) work would need to be carried out per year in contrast to NASA’s target of around 500 hours. The redesigned station, now nicknamed “Fred” by critics (to indicate that it was a cut down Freedom), was unveiled in March 1991, would cost around $16.9 billion and would take 23 shuttle launches to complete.

By the time the Freedom project was canceled in 1991, NASA had redesigned the station at least six times and spent over $11 billion without building a single piece of flight capable hardware. Valery Ryumin of Energia was heard to comment, “They’ve spent 10 years and $11 billion; if only we’d had a bit of that money. $11 billion and they haven’t done a thing; everything they’ve done in that decade was useless, none of it worked. Ten years and all they built was a wooden model.’’

Although canceled in May 1991, the space station plan was quickly revived only one month later; but with a dramatically cut budget. It was not until 1993 that President Bill Clinton really tackled the problem directly. He demanded three new station designs, options A, B, and C, costing $5 billion, $7 billion, and $9 billion

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

Space station Fred—March 1991

respectively. Option A, which was based on a 1991 Freedom design, was chosen as the best compromise, and would cost $6 billion, but this would be without a habitation module that would be added later at additional cost. Nevertheless, the station’s critics in Congress remained skeptical, and a move to kill the entire project failed by a single vote. At this point, NASA introduced a new partner—Russia. Using Russian mod­ules and technology would make the assembly of the station more efficient. Clinton saw an opportunity to tie the Russians into a program that would keep its engineers busy, and therefore less likely to get involved with other countries more questionable activities. It was only when this agreement was reached (Chapter 11) that things began to move forward; mostly because the station now had an acceptable political face.

In reality, the same problems that had plagued Freedom would continue into the ISS. It was never very clear what Freedom or the ISS was actually for. What goals did it set? The Soviets had always had the goal during the many iterations of Salyut to make each station more independent, more self-sustaining, than its predecessor. This kind of technology and operational capability would be necessary for the longer, far – reaching space flights of the future, like a manned mission to Mars. With Mir, Russia had almost achieved the ultimate goal of a “closed loop’’ spacecraft. However, Freedom and later the ISS would not have the same goal; there was nothing “closed

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

First ISS design—1993

loop” about the design, and this did not appear to be the goal in the future. When Ronald Reagan made his speech in 1984, he said, “America has always been greatest when we dared to be great. We can reach for greatness again. We can follow our dreams to distant stars, living and working in space for peaceful, economic, and scientific gain.” This was not really the clear goal that NASA was looking for or needed, and it was not long before the old engineering maxim, “the better is the enemy of the good”, showed itself to be true.

The space station became far too big and complicated; NASA had designed a Rolls Royce when it only really needed a Mini.

Freedom: The U. S. strikes back

1966—APOLLO APPLICATIONS PROGRAM (AAP)—NASA

When George Mueller took over as director of NASA’s office of manned space flight in 1963 he set out to ensure that after Apollo had achieved the first lunar landing, the tremendous technical capability developed to achieve this feat should not be wasted. So was born the Apollo Applications Program, and in March of 1966 the first AAP schedule was revealed. It was adventurous to say the least. It projected 45 launches using both the Saturn V and Saturn IB to both Earth and lunar orbits, all of these missions separate from the moon landing effort of Project Apollo. Most significantly, these launches included three Saturn S-IVB Spent Stage Experiment Support Mod­ules (SSESM), otherwise known as “wet workshops’’. This form of space station seemed an economical way for NASA to obtain its first space station experience. The S-IVB stage would be launched to orbit in the normal way as the upper stage of a Saturn V, with a crew in an Apollo CSM, but the spent stage would remain in orbit where it would be dried out internally and outfitted by the crew as a temporary laboratory and workshop. There were some concerns within NASA over this approach, not least within the Astronaut Office, which was primarily concerned with the suitability of a emptied hydrogen tank for human habitation, plus the issues of providing power to the planned experiments, and the general safety of such a structure.

In November 1967 the Manned Spacecraft Center proposed an alternative to the “wet workshop”, a “dry workshop”. This basically meant that instead of launching the S-IVB stage as an active part of the booster and then outfitting it in orbit, the stage should be outfitted on the ground and launched as a conventional payload. However, there was some opposition to this proposal, and it was decided to continue with the wet workshop plan. Things changed again in May 1969; the early success in man-rating the Saturn V had potentially freed up a Saturn V. This reopened the dry workshop possibility. The benefits of being able to completely outfit the workshop on the ground before launch were clear, and Wernher von Braun and his team at Marshall began to warm to the idea that they had originally opposed. In June of that same year, the Department of Defense MOL program was canceled, and several elements including seven of the program’s astronauts, were transferred to NASA. This added new momentum to the Orbital Workshop Program (OWS), as the sole – remaining element of AAP had become known. In July 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and NASA’s Administrator, Tom Paine, approved the change from wet to dry workshop design, and officially assigned a Saturn V to launch it. The number of AAP launches had now reduced dramatically to just four: one Saturn V to launch the workshop, and three Saturn IB launches to get the crews to the orbiting outpost. In February 1970, the project received an official name; America’s first manned space station would be called Skylab.

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

The Shuttle-Міг program was born in July 1991 when President George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signed an agreement for a Soviet cosmonaut to fly aboard the space shuttle, and a U. S. astronaut to fly a Soyuz-TM mission. The two great powers had wanted to build on the Apollo-Soyuz mission of 1975 for some time; there had been suggestions that a Soyuz would visit Skylab, but that was deemed unpractical because of the differences in the docking interface between the two craft. There had also even been a suggestion in 1984 that the shuttle dock with Salyut 7 in a sort of simulated space rescue, but nothing ever came of the idea.

This agreement was expanded upon in October 1992 to include a shuttle mission to the Mir space station, and a long-duration stay by a U. S. astronaut on Mir. The mission to Mir by the shuttle was made possible by the availability of the docking adapter that originally had been built for the Soviet shuttle, Buran. That adapter would now be fitted to the shuttle Atlantis. For the first time in its history the shuttle had somewhere to go, although the shuttle’s original designers surely had no idea that its first such mission would be to a product of the Soviet Union!

In 1993 it was decided that the shuttle would in fact dock with Mir ten times, exchanging crews and allowing U. S. astronauts several long-duration missions. It was additionally agreed that more than one Russian would fly on the shuttle. By this time, of course, Russia was a partner in the newly redesigned International Space Station (ISS), and so the new program was divided into three phases. Phase 1 would see the ten Mir-Shuttle dockings, involving at least five long-duration flights by NASA astronauts on board the Russian station for which NASA would pay a fee. There would also be at least two flights by Russians on board the shuttle. Phase 2 would signal the beginning of construction of the ISS with launches from the U. S. and Russia of station elements, that would lead to a permanent three-man crew. Phase 3 would complete construction with the elements from other partner nations such as Japan and the ESA.

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

STS-60 inflight crew portrait

Sergei Krikalev was chosen along with Vladimir Titov as the first Russians to train for a flight on the shuttle as mission specialists. Krikalev became the prime candidate, and he flew on STS-60 in February 1994. This mission had nothing to do with space station operations, but it allowed Krikalev to discover how Americans flew in space, and that flying on the shuttle was very different to flying a Soyuz to the Mir station. This mission lasted a mere eight days; a short sprint in comparison with the months he had spent on board Mir. Activities were far more intense and scripted than his time on Mir, and it proved that the NASA mission planners would have to change their strategy considerably when it came to mounting both the long-term Mir missions and future mission to the ISS.

To underline this message, Vladimir Titov flew on board the shuttle Discovery on mission STS-63 in February 1995. This was not a docking mission, but it was planned to rendezvous with Mir as an engineering demonstration. Although the mission did suffer from some unfortunate malfunctions including one that postponed the flight and another, a thruster leakage, which nearly cancelled the close approach to the Mir station, valuable data for the future docking missions was obtained.

The next part of Phase 1 to be fulfilled was the first long-duration flight by a NASA astronaut to the Mir space station. Additionally this astronaut, Norman Thagard, would be the first to be launched aboard a Soyuz-TM spacecraft. Thagard was an experienced flyer with four shuttle flights under his belt, but he and NASA quickly discovered what Krikalev and Titov had on their shuttle missions, which was

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Thagard in his sleep restraint on Mir

that a space shuttle mission and a long-duration flight on a space station are two very different things. The Mir mission required much more flexibility, both from the crewmember and from those on the ground, but NASA seemed to have forgotten the lessons learnt twenty years previously with Skylab. Thagard was dismayed to discover that his ground controllers were programming every minute of his day from waking in the morning to going to bed at night. Much the same frustrations that had plagued the Skylab 4 crew now manifested themselves in Thagard. The problem was exacerbated by the cultural differences for Thagard; he was completely cut off from his compatriots, and often went for days without speaking any English or speaking to his friends and colleagues.

The historic docking of the space shuttle Atlantis with the Mir space station echoed that of the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975. Atlantis launched on 27 June 1995 and docked with Mir two days later. The crew consisted of five U. S. astronauts, and the new Mir 19 crew of Anatoli Solovyov and Nikolai Budarin, so that Mir now had a combined crew of 10, the largest in history, beating the previous record of 8 on shuttle mission STS-61A, which flew the first German Spacelab mission. Atlantis also had a Spacelab module in its payload bay to take advantage of the opportunity to study the physiology of the three existing Mir crewmates whilst still in space. Atlantis had brought plenty of supplies to Mir, far more than the Progress freighters could carry, and better, it allowed many things to be returned to Earth from Mir, something that could only be done in small quantities in the Soyuz spacecraft. It allowed the Russians to return faulty equipment to allow diagnostics by Russian engineers; it also allowed experiment results to be returned quickly. Perhaps the most important item delivered by the shuttle was water. Mir was able to recycle about 60% of its own water, but most of that was not fit for drinking. Atlantis was able to deliver half a tonne of water from its fuel cells, where water is a natural by-product and would normally be dumped overboard. It was during all of this back and forth from Mir to Shuttle that it was realized that the ISS would need very careful stock control in order to determine what was on board the station, where it was, and its current status. Mir had not benefited from this kind of control and consequently many items that were unknown, or at least forgotten, were crammed into every available space, often behind wall panels.

Bonnie Dunbar had originally been due to be left behind by Atlantis for a long – duration mission of her own, but this plan had to be abandoned to allow the European Space Agency (ESA) to carry out a long-duration mission by Thomas Reiter of Germany. At this point in time, with the ISS construction running late, many nations wished to fly experiments and people on Mir to gain experience. This meant that finding space on Mir’s increasingly busy schedule was difficult. Reiter joined the Mir crew on Soyuz-TM 22 in September 1995, and expected to stay on board for 135 days, although his mission was eventually lengthened by a further 42 days. His presence on the station meant that NASA could not carry out a long- duration mission of their own at the same time, as that would mean there were four permanent residents on the station, and the Soyuz lifeboat only carries three.

Therefore when Atlantis undocked on the 4 July, Dunbar was still on board along with the Mir 18 crew, including Norm Thagard. The old Mir crew rode back to Earth in new prone seats on the mid-deck. This basically involved the crew lying on their backs on the mid-deck floor with their feet in the storage lockers in front of them; it was felt that this was a better way for the long-duration crews to return to Earth. Nevertheless, Thagard broke the medical rules for his flight by walking out of the shuttle to the waiting astrovan.

Atlantis’ mission to Mir had been made possible, as mentioned previously, by the Russian docking adapter. However, the corresponding adapter on the Mir was attached to the end of the Kristall module. In order for the shuttle to dock there without coming too close to the solar arrays, Kristall had to be moved from its normal position—on the docking node at right angles to the Mir base block—to the end of the Mir base block’s docking node. In order to get around this necessity for future missions the next shuttle would bring an extended docking port which would be attached to the end of Kristall in its normal position. So it was that the shuttle Atlantis flying mission STS-74 arrived at the station in November 1995 with the new docking module in its payload bay. Two extra solar panels for Mir were transported affixed to the sides of the docking module, and were to be fitted to Mir at a later date by the resident crew. The Atlantis crew delivered many items to Mir, again far more

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Shuttle docking adapter installed in Atlantis

than could be achieved by a Progress, and in fact more than the previous Atlantis mission, due to not having to carry Spacelab into orbit. The cargo consisted of food, water, replacement lithium hydroxide canisters, many items for future NASA research, plus many personal items for the Mir crew including a guitar that was put to good use by Canada’s Chris Hadfield in a song describing Miss Dolly Parton!

NASA now had the opportunity to fly a further six astronauts on long-duration flights aboard the Mir station. Perhaps surprisingly there was not a great rush of volunteers to fill these positions, and NASA struggled to find 12 astronauts (including back-ups) who were willing to undergo the training in Russia for a year or more, and that fulfilled the criteria that the Russians had laid down for Mir crewmembers. The initial schedule for NASA’s missions to Mir or increments as they liked to call them looked like this.

NASA increment

Prime

Back-up

Duration

2

Shannon Lucid

John Blaha

5 months

3

Jerry Linenger

Scott Parazynski

4 months

4

John Blaha

Wendy Lawrence

6 months

5

Scott Parazynski

Wendy Lawrence

4 months

Norm Thagard had two different back-ups during his training cycle for the first NASA increment—Bill Readdy and Bonnie Dunbar. Bill Readdy was apparently persuaded to be Thagard’s non-flying back-up on the understanding that he would fly a later mission to Mir in which he would be launched by shuttle, but return to Earth in a Soyuz, something that no NASA astronaut had done up to that point. Ultimately Readdy was convinced to take up the position of Director of Operations (DOR) at Star City and later he commanded the mission that retrieved Shannon Lucid from Mir and delivered John Blaha.

Scott Parazynski was the first astronaut to fall foul of the Russian system. He had been training as back-up to John Blaha for the third U. S. increment aboard Mir when it was found that he was fractionally too tall for the existing Soyuz capsule. A new design of Soyuz was in the pipeline that would allow crewmembers of his stature, but this would not arrive soon enough, and he was removed from the program. Wendy Lawrence was doubly unlucky. She was initially removed from the program because she was too short for the Soyuz. And although she was reinstated in the program to succeed Michael Foale on the sixth increment to Mir, it was decided after the catastrophic events during Foale’s flight that a crewmember capable of carrying out an EVA was required, and she proved to be too short to wear a Russian Orlan spacesuit, plus she had never been EVA trained at NASA, so she was removed from the crew rotation again to be replaced by David Wolf. This meant an accelerated training program for Wolf, as he had never served as a back-up crewmember, but he made the best of the situation and crammed his training in before launch. James Voss came into the breach as non-flying back-up for two of the increments, but he had already been assigned to an early ISS crew, and would make good use of his Mir training experience. After these changes the flight schedule now looked like this.

NASA increment

Prime

Back-up

Duration/EVA

2

Shannon Lucid

John Blaha

6 months

3

John Blaha

Jerry Linenger

4 months

4

Jerry Linenger

Michael Foale

4l months + EVA

5

Michael Foale

James Voss

5 months + EVA

6

David Wolf

Andy Thomas

4 months + EVA

7

Andy Thomas

James Voss

41 months

The remaining seven shuttle missions to Mir all followed the same pattern. The shuttle would bring the next replacement NASA crewmember and/or return with the old one. The shuttle would be fitted with a SpaceHab module in its payload bay to transport more supplies than previous shuttle flights to Mir, including experiments, food, clothing, water, and bring back experiment results and obsolete equipment, thus alleviating Mir’s clutter problem slightly.

Shannon Lucid was the next willing volunteer for a long-duration mission to Mir. She was delivered aboard the shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-76 arriving on 24 March

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

STS-76 crew portrait, Lucid middle back row

1996, and was scheduled to stay aboard until Atlantis returned to collect her in early August.

A veteran of four previous shuttle missions, Lucid had eagerly volunteered for her mission to Mir, and undertaken the training in Russia with great zeal, seeing the chance to live on board a Russian space station with two Russians as a unique opportunity. Just over a month into her mission the final module, Priroda, to be added to the Mir complex, arrived. The contents of Priroda had been provided by many nations including Russia, America, Germany, France, and Canada, and truly reflected Mir’s increasing role as a melting pot of international collaboration. Lucid’s time on board Mir seemed to run more smoothly than had Thagard’s before her. She was free to work at her own pace as she worked her way through the four-day task list that was updated by her NASA colleagues on the ground every day, she was also able to send and receive e-mails from friends and colleagues which helped to ward off any feelings of isolation. In mid-July Shannon was told that her mission would have to be extended to mid-September due to problems with the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) that had been stacked for Atlantis’ mission to retrieve her (STS-79). A previous shuttle mission, STS-78, had experienced a problem with erosion of the field joints in its SRBs, which was a problem not dissimilar to that suffered by Challenger during its fateful flight in January 1986. It was thought that this erosion had been caused by a change in the type of adhesive used during assembly of the SRBs, and the boosters for STS-79 had been assembled in the same way. It was therefore decided to replace those boosters with the ones that had been set aside for STS-80, which used the original type of adhesive.

When the crew of STS-79 did dock with Mir on 19 September, Shannon had already broken two space records. On 7 September she had broken Elena Konda­kova’s female duration record of 169 days, and on 17 September she broke the visitors (i. e. non-Russian) record of 179 days, which had recently been set by Thomas Reiter. The change of crew between Lucid and new arrival, John Blaha, was done in much the same way as the Russian crewmembers. They exchanged the seat liners for the Soyuz lifeboat capsule, and Lucid briefed Blaha as to the status and location of her many experiments and offered tips on living aboard the station. When Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Center Lucid had also set a new American duration record of 188 days. She adapted to Earth gravity more rapidly than expected, walking off the shuttle to the crew transport vehicle before later meeting with President Clinton.

Within NASA and the Phase 1 program there seemed to be two distinct camps of opinion on the collaboration with the Russians. Some felt that it was a business deal, pure and simple: NASA paid the Russians, plus offered the occasional seat on the shuttle, and in return the Russians provided training and room and board on the Mir station. Others believed that it was a proper partnership, or that at least it ought to be. With proper give-and-take on both sides, decisions being made jointly, and perhaps most importantly lessons learned on both sides, including language and working skills, organization of long-duration flights, and technology transfer between the two nations. This segregation within the program seemed to extend to the astronauts in training for the upcoming missions to Mir. Shannon Lucid for example, was definitely a member of the latter group; she saw the whole joint program as a massive opportunity, both for NASA and for her personally. She threw herself into her training, taking care to learn the Russian language and customs, and making sure that she integrated well with her assigned crew. This attitude served her well when time came to fly her mission, especially when it was extended. It was less clear which group John Blaha fell into; he was the only pilot-astronaut assigned to a Mir mission, and his background in the U. S. Air Force could certainly have given him reason to harbour a certain amount of distrust towards his Russian colleagues. Certainly his attitude cannot have been helped when the crew that he been training with—commander Gennadi Manakov and flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov—were removed from the flight just one month before his launch to Mir owing to a problem with Manakov’s EKG. The pair were grounded and replaced with their back-ups, commander Valery Korzun and flight engineer Aleksandr Kaleri. Blaha did not even know who Kaleri was, but the insertion of Korzun worried him. He had carried out his winter survival training with Korzun and Michael Foale, and found the man to be condescending in the extreme; he could not imagine what spending four months under his command would be like. Blaha’s troubles had not started there; for months he had struggled with the lack of support from the Phase 1 office at NASA. He had also become embroiled in an argument with both sides about carrying his own personal set of notes to Mir. His lack of expertise with the Russian language only added fuel to the fire, and all in all his training cycle had been a very difficult one. When launch day finally arrived for Blaha and the crew of STS-79, he was already exhausted.

Unfortunately, things did not get any better when he arrived at the station. Korzun and Kaleri welcomed him warmly, which made him feel a little better, but when he tried his first science experiments, with the shuttle still docked at the station, he immediately hit problems. As many astronauts and cosmonauts before him had discovered, it takes a lot longer to do even the simplest things in space, than it does on the ground; despite what it might say in the checklist. His first experiment was supposed to take only 1^ hours to complete, start to finish; it ended up taking him 5 hours just to find all of the components in the sprawling cluttered station and put them together. In short, the reality was nothing like the organized straightforward training on the ground; things were not where they were supposed to be, and even if they were, there was no guarantee that they would be in working order. For a goal driven achiever, this was simply unacceptable, and the ground could not, and it seemed to Blaha, would not, help him. The ground support team acted as if Blaha was flying a shuttle mission, where everything is carefully cataloged and in its proper place; they did not seem to understand how it could be possible to not find something in a closed vehicle. Because of this lack of understanding, Blaha began to work longer and longer hours in his efforts to catch up with the timeline, which remained rigid and unaltered despite his pleas for it to be relaxed. Now, this may all sound very familiar in the light of the problems faced by the third crew aboard Skylab (they are in fact exactly the same problems) but nearly 30 years down the line, and on board a Russian station instead of an American one, with the additional issue of the language barrier only making the situation worse. It seems amazing to consider that NASA appeared

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

John Blaha portrait

to have learnt nothing, but it seems no-one from the Phase 1 program had paid any attention to the lessons of Skylab, and worse still, even when Phase 1 did learn from its mistakes, the newly learned lessons were not passed on, or not listened to, by the Phase 2 people.

Blaha soldiered on for the remainder of his four-month stay, and found, just as the Skylab 3 crew did, that things did improve over time. He became more adept at finding things on the cluttered Mir station, and the ground controllers eventually learned to relax their grip on the flight plan and leave some of the planning to Blaha himself. Nevertheless, he was quite relieved to hand over the reins to his replacement Jerry Linenger, who arrived aboard the space shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-81. Linenger was different from the previous Mir residents from NASA in that he had

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Linenger before launch

only flown one shuttle mission, and he had been assigned hastily to comply with the Russian requirement that all astronauts for Mir be flight experienced. The plans for his increment were slightly different too; he was to carry out an EVA, the first by an American in a Russian Orlan spacesuit, and he was to spend the longest time on the station at that time. His attitude towards his Russian hosts was noticeably different from his predecessors too. He seemed to feel that NASA was paying the Russian Space Agency for a service, one that they were only barely providing. He seemed to have little interest in integrating himself into his two different Mir flight crews he would serve with. His main priority was to carry out his mission, and everything else

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Soyuz-TM 25 crew, Tsibliyev, Ewald, and Lazutkin

was secondary (at least) to that goal. This attitude seemed likely to put him on a collision course with his Russian crewmates, and so it proved to be.

The Mir resident crew when Linenger arrived were still Valeri Korzun and Aleksandr Kaleri, and they welcomed Linenger just as warmly as they had John Blaha. As Linenger settled down to life on Mir, and began his schedule of experi­ments, Korzun and Kaleri noticed that he kept to himself and did not often join them for meals or other “social” occasions, but they let him be as the end of their increment slowly approached. In March 1997, a Soyuz arrived with the replacement Mir crew; it also carried a cosmonaut researcher, Reinhold Ewald from Germany, who would stay on board the station during the handover period.

Mir became a little crowded and cosy with six men on board, especially at meal times when all six would float around the table in the base block. The extra three-man crew on Mir required that the oxygen supply be supplemented by use of solid fuel oxygen generators (SFOG) into which tanks containing a chemical which produced oxygen when it was heated were inserted. These tanks were commonly referred to as “candles” by the cosmonauts. One evening as most of the crew gathered in the base block for the final meal of the day, Sasha Lazutkin, one of the new arrivals broke from the meal and went into the Kvant module to carry out the final candle burn of the day. Almost immediately he realized something had gone wrong. The candle started its burn in the normal way, but then he heard the tank hiss and, almost unbelievably, it burst into flames. Lazutkin was momentarily frozen by the sight before him, and even when he tried to shout a warning he was not heard. It was Ewald who saw the fire and screamed “Fire” in Russian. The rest of the crew finally realized what was happening, and Korzun dived into the Kvant module with Lazutkin. However, they quickly realized that it was not going to be easy to put out a fire in weightlessness that was being fed by the chemical reaction taking place in the candle. Fire extinguishers proved to be almost useless, and the fire continued to burn despite the efforts of the crew until slowly the solid fuel was consumed. By this time, the base block was almost filled with smoke, and the crew all donned oxygen masks; except Jerry Linenger, who was not in the base block. The fire alarm finally went off alerting Linenger in Spektr, he rushed into the node between Spektr and the base block and tried to find an oxygen mask for himself, the first mask he tried failed to work, the second was more successful. It was realized later that several of the emergency oxygen masks tried by all members of the crew were faulty. In addition, the first fire extinguisher that Linenger tried in Priroda was securely fastened to the wall and would not come off. The new commander, Vasily Tsibliyev, also tried to take an extinguisher from Priroda, but it too was securely fastened to the wall. It turned out that the transport straps put in place for Priroda’s launch were never removed once the module reached orbit over a year and half previously. Emergency evacuation procedures called for the crew to prepare the two docked Soyuz spacecraft for departure, but one of the ships was on the other side of the fire, docked at the end of Kvant; this was the ship reserved for Korzun, Kaleri, and Ewald. Clearly, there was no way for anyone to reach it until the fire was put out. By the time the fire was finally out, most of the modules of Mir were filled with dense smoke and steam, and as thoughts turned to the effects of smoke inhalation Jerry Linenger reverted to his profession as a medical doctor. Of primary concern were the chemicals that made up the contents of the candle, and the residue of those chemicals in the smoky air. When the oxygen masks ran out, the crew donned surgical masks in an attempt to filter out any contaminants. The smoke slowly cleared, and the crew did the best they could to clean up the interior of the station, after which they washed and changed into clean clothes. Linenger carried out a health check on all of the crew checking their lungs for the effects of smoke, none of them appeared affected. After reporting the fire to the ground, the crew attempted to get some sleep.

Frank Culbertson was in the middle of a deep sleep when he was woken by his telephone. The call was to tell him about the fire, but it was not a Russian voice on the other end of the line, it was the voice of one of his support crew working at the Russian control center. Nobody from the Russian space program had thought to notify the head of the U. S. side of Shuttle-Mir that 12 hours ago one of their astronauts had just lived through the worst fire in spaceflight history.

Safety in space has always been the primary concern of NASA and the Russian space program. Both agencies had faced emergencies during their years of manned space flight, and sadly, both had suffered fatalities. The central tenet of the agreement between the two agencies was that each was responsible for the safety of the others’ astronaut or cosmonaut crews. Missions on the shuttle and on Mir had taken place so far without incident, but the fire on Mir changed the perception of safety, especially in the minds of NASA, and the U. S. politicians and public. Suddenly, the perception was that Mir was risky and unsafe, and the Russian controllers were maverick and uncaring risk-takers. It did not help that many of NASA’s own engineers felt that there was nothing to be learned from the Russians that they did not already know. Bearing in mind that Phase 1 was supposed to be the beginning of a long-standing partnership with the Russians, and that many of the lessons learnt here should bear fruit during the construction of the ISS, NASA took virtually no notice of anything the Russians did until something went wrong. Nothing exemplified the difference between the NASA and Russian way of doing things more than the attitude toward the fire. The Russians really thought that it was no big deal; they had fires on previous space stations, and there had been no problem putting them out and carrying on as normal. NASA, in contrast, spent large sums of money ensuring that every precau­tion against fire was taken; wiring, spacesuits, and non-flammable clothing were all checked and double-checked before flights. NASA’s attitude was perhaps under­standable given the fate of the crew of Apollo 1, who died in their spacecraft on the ground, but the Russians too had lost a cosmonaut in a fire on the ground and they did not believe such precautions to be necessary. The official Russian press release only intensified the distrust between the two parties; it stated that a “micro­fire”, more likely described as a “small fire’’, occurred on the station for no more that 90 seconds, and that the crew easily extinguished it. Later, when both crews were back on the ground, this would be a major point of contention, Linenger was certain it had lasted about 14 minutes; other members of the crew thought it might have been about 5 minutes, perhaps more. Certainly none of them agreed that it was only one and a half minutes. As the days passed, the reactions to the fire began to calm down, but the seeds of discontent had been sown, both on the ground and on the space station Mir. The crew on board Mir, however, had plenty to occupy them. The resident crew, Tsibliyev and Lazutkin, were preparing a test in which they were to manually dock a Progress freighter. In itself, this was not an unusual occurrence; many crews had used the ability to manually dock Soyuz spacecraft and on occasion had used a remote control system to dock Progress ships from short distances when problems had surfaced with the automatic docking system. In this case, however, the crew was to attempt to dock the Progress from a range of about 8 km from the station. Tsibliyev would sit at the TORU controls that had been assembled in the base block, where he would maneuvre the Progress using two control sticks, one controlling its orientation, and the other imparting thrust fore and aft, left, and right. In front of him was a small screen, which transmited a view from the front of the oncoming Progress along with some simple radar information—that was all Tsibliyev had to judge the approach of the 7-tonne spacecraft as it hurtled toward the space station. Why, you might ask, carry out such a test? What contingency does it prepare the crew and station for? The answer has nothing to do with emergency scenarios or improving station operations, it has everything to do with money, a resource that the Russian space agency was desperately short of. The automatic docking system that was on board all Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, and the Mir space station was called Kurs, and it was manufactured in the Ukraine. Whilst the Soviet Union existed this was of no concern. But, since the break-up, and the independence of the Ukraine, it was now of utmost concern. The Ukrainian’s charge a large amount of money for this equip­ment, and it occurred to the Russians that maybe they could manage without it; after all, each Progress spacecraft never returned to Earth, it burned up in the atmosphere taking its expensive Kurs apparatus with it. Already the Soyuz were using Kurs that had flown and returned many times before, but the same could not be true for Progress. If they could find a way to allow the resident station crew to perform the rendezvous and docking manually it would mean they no longer needed to install Kurs in every spacecraft. The test started badly. Tsibliyev could see nothing on the monitor in front of him. He urged Linenger and Lazutkin to look out of every window to try and find the approaching Progress, but they could not see it. Finally, Lazutkin spotted the spacecraft as it emerged from behind the station’s solar arrays; it was close enough for Lazutkin to see the details of the craft’s antennas and arrays. The monitor in front of Tsibliyev finally came on and showed that Progress would miss the station by barely 200 m. The three members of the Mir crew were shaken and angry, the Progress had been out of control and could have ended up anywhere. The exact nature of the near miss, or even the reason for carrying out the test was never communicated to the U. S. side; neither did NASA officials ask about it. Eventually Russian ground controllers told the NASA engineers that they had simply decided not to continue with the docking due to some software problems. Linenger, surpris­ingly given his mistrust of the Russian system, said nothing in his communications with his ground-based team; he assumed that they must know what had happened and how close it had been, but they did not.

Work on Mir carried on as normal, although Tsibliyev’s attitude had noticeably changed. Linenger carried on with his schedule of experiments, his frustration with NASA’s minute-to-minute planning growing by the day. The various systems on board Mir were not co-operating either: the Elektron system that produced breath­able oxygen shut down, requiring the crew to burn more candles, which they were reluctant to do. The gyrodynes on the station—big gyroscopes that allow the station to be orientated without using thrusters—were proving temperamental, as were various power systems. Suddenly it seemed that nothing was working properly. The relationship between Linenger and his Russian crewmates had deteriorated, particularly with Tsibliyev. As the malfunctions on the station grew, it seemed to the Russians that Linenger was doing nothing to help; he would continue his personal routine regardless of anything else that might be going on. Tsibliyev resented that attitude. Russian ground controllers were concerned about the spacewalk that Line – nger and Tsibliyev are due to carry out together; they feared that the antagonistic relationship between them was not an ideal basis for carrying out such a task. The spacewalk went ahead as planned, but rumours were abound of a “fight” between the two men whilst outside the station, a rumour which both men later strenuously denied. Meanwhile, NASA was getting nervous about the condition of Mir, to the point that it was considering not flying the next astronaut, Mike Foale, to the station. However, the shaky partnership continued when Foale launched on board the space shuttle Atlantis and arrived at Mir to replace Linenger. Foale was confident that he could enjoy a far better relationship with the Russian crew than Linenger, and immediately settled into the station’s routine.

Michael Foale’s outlook on his mission, and the whole partnership with the Russians was very different from Jerry Linenger’s. From the very beginning of his

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

STS-84 crew (Mike Foale front right)

training he had ensured that he did the best he could to integrate himself into the Russian culture. As he learnt Russian, a difficult language that all NASA Mir candidates found hard, he made sure that he learnt more than just the technical vocabulary that was necessary for his job. He made friends with Russian colleagues, invited them to his home, and they in turn welcomed him into theirs. His conversa­tional Russian became excellent, and the Russians appreciated the extra effort he was making. At the same time, Foale realized that working with the Russians was never going to be easy; the culture and attitude was so much different from that of the U. S., that complete trust and co-operation was never going to happen, at least not for many years. As soon as he arrived on board Mir he was determined to integrate himself fully into the Russian crew; it would mean biting his lip occasionally, but he wanted to gain the confidence of Tsibliyev and Lazutkin, and be trusted by them. There was certainly plenty of work to do, Mir was still suffering from malfunctions and coolant leaks, and Tsibliyev and Lazutkin were as busy as ever trying to catch up with the growing list of problems. Foale helped where he could, but the Mir crew were beyond exhaustion from the stresses and strains of the previous months, and still the problems with Mir’s hardware continued.

Unbelievably, the Russian controllers decided to repeat the Progress docking test that had almost ended in disaster more than three months previously. Just as unbelievably, NASA officials who were this time informed of the upcoming test, said nothing, and Foale was not informed about it either. The lines of communication between the partners of this new space enterprise were virtually non-existent, and even the little that was being communicated was not being understood. Only a few days before the test was due to take place did Foale begin to question his commander about it. Tsibliyev, perhaps understandably, was reluctant to go into details, but, when pressed, Tsibliyev explained more about what was planned, and what had happened the last time they had tried. The reason for the repeat of the test was that the Russian engineers thought they knew the reason why the TORU monitor had failed to show any display. They reasoned that the Kurs radar signals, which had been turned on during the first test, had somehow interfered with the monitor’s signal. The solution was simple to them; turn off the radar signals, and try again. Now the image from the camera on the front of Progress, if it worked, would be Tsibliyev’s only source of information as he attempted to dock the 7-tonne spacecraft with Mir.

At the start of the test, the Progress craft was 7 km away from Mir and Tsibliyev was required to bring the spacecraft to a point about 50 m away from the Kvant docking port; all of this to take place whilst Mir was out of contact with controllers on the ground. To begin with, Tsibliyev was happy, at least the monitor was working this time, but he found it hard to make out the station from the clouds of the Earth behind it. Once again, his crewmates had their faces pressed against the windows searching for the Progress cargo craft, but they saw nothing. Lazutkin was the man that eventually spotted the Progress; it was very close and this time it was heading straight for the station. Tsibliyev ordered Foale into the Soyuz evacuation spacecraft. Moments later the Progress hit the Mir space station, the master alarm rang through the station, Foale felt his ears pop and it was clear to him that the hull of the station has been breached. He dived toward the Soyuz and prepared it for immediate departure, but Tsibliyev and Lazutkin remained on the station. Lazutkin knew where Progress had hit the station; he saw it with his own eyes. The Spektr module was now leaking its precious atmosphere, and the only course of action was to seal it off from the rest of the station. Unfortunately, this was not a simple exercise. Spektr, like all of Mir’s modules, had cables and tubes snaking through its open hatchway and these needed to be removed before the hatch could be closed. Some cables were easy to remove, but Lazutkin could not find the attachment points for others, so he cut through them with a knife until finally the hatchway was cable free. Meanwhile Tsibliyev had begun to “feed the leak’’ by opening canisters of oxygen that were stored in Kvant 2; this action would keep the air pressure at a survivable level, for now. Lazutkin then tried to pull the inner hatch of Spektr closed, but even with Foale’s help they could not do it, the air rushed past them and out of the puncture in Spektr’s hull, making pulling the hatch closed impossible. The only other option was to find the original “lid” hatch cover that was in place in the node before Spektr docked; fortunately, these covers were stored in the node, and Lazutkin quickly grabbed one from its storage place on the wall— it was immediately sucked into place by the same escaping air that hampered their earlier efforts. The station had been saved from the immediate threat of depressurization, and the crew were safe, but the drama was not yet over.

Frank Culbertson barely had time to reflect that early morning phone calls had become something of a feature of the Phase 1 program, as he answered yet another

one. Once again, he was amazed that a NASA astronaut had survived a life threat­ening accident, and no one from the Russian space agency had contacted him.

The drama aboard Mir was far from over, Spektr was now sealed off, and there was no immediate danger to the crew, but the impact of the Progress freighter had imparted a rotation to the station that could not be corrected as the attitude control computer was offline due to a lack of power. As the station drifted, the solar arrays could not track the Sun and generate power, the station’s batteries took over the load, but they only had a limited life, and they were draining fast. Before communication with the ground was restored all power was lost, the lights went out, the gyrodynes and air circulation systems stopped; they established radio contact with the ground but expected to lose that at any moment. The crew turned on the radio in the Soyuz, which would be their only means of communication with the ground. The problem was that with the station still rolling, and no power to any of the station’s systems, they appeared to have no means of stopping the roll and realigning the solar arrays with the Sun. Foale suggested that they use the Soyuz thrusters to regain control of the station, Tsibliyev was not keen on that idea; he had been been taught to preserve the Soyuz and its fuel at all costs, but the ground controllers finally agreed that this was the only option. After several attempts, the Soyuz was able to stop the roll and stabilize the station. Fortunately, when the station stabilized, it happened to be pointing its arrays at the Sun, and the batteries began to charge, it was a slow process, but Mir finally cames back to life.

The Phase 1 program was at the end of its tether. The feelings of distrust and hopelessness overwhelmed Frank Culbertson and his team, pressure from U. S. poli­ticians as well as from within NASA began to tell; the message seemed to be “we just can’t trust the safety of our astronauts to the Russians’’. The first meaningful partner­ship between the space superpowers was at a crossroads, and most of NASA wanted to stop right there. In Russia, things were completely different; to the officials of their space program this was simply another bump in a long road. Salyut 7 was a good example of the kind of repairs that cosmonauts could accomplish. That station had literally been brought back from the dead, and it was obvious to them that they could do the same thing again. NASA continued to consider its options including having Foale return to Earth with Tsibliyev and Lazutkin on board the Soyuz instead of waiting for a shuttle to pick him up. The implications of their future actions were plain to see, if they removed Foale early, Phase 1 was over, and so too, almost certainly, was the future co-operation for the ISS. Foale’s safety was obviously important, but it would be naive to think it was the only concern. For the first time, NASA was not in control of the destiny of one of its own; they had to trust com­pletely the Russian space agency’s ability to keep their man safe, and they were not sure that they did. As much as they tried to impress upon the Russian officials their concerns, and their opinions, the truth was that the Russians would continue to do things as they saw fit; it was, after all, their station.

Over the next few weeks, the station experienced several power drops, resulting in the station again drifting out of control, and the Soyuz had again to be used to regain the station’s attitude. NASA officials were worried that a further shuttle docking would not be possible; if such a fault occurred during the last phases of docking, it would be disastrous. Russian officials, such as Valery Ryumin, were determined to press ahead with their schedule for the station. This included sending a guest cosmo­naut, Leopold Eyharts from France, to the station with the next long-duration crew. NASA felt that would put an unnecessary drain on Mir’s limited resources, and should be postponed, but Ryumin would hear nothing of it; the French had paid for their mission, and he saw no reason to cancel it. Part of the preparations for the French mission was the repair of Spektr, which would be carried out by means of an internal spacewalk by Tsibliyev and Lazutkin. They were to enter Spektr in space – suits, which would be cramped at best, and find and repair the hole made by the Progress collision. It was important that power be restored from the Spektr solar arrays to run the French mission experiments.

The Russian Mir crew of Tsibliyev and Lazutkin meanwhile, felt sure that they would take the blame for the whole affair. Tsibliyev in particular, was certain that he would never be allowed to fly in space again, Lazutkin was less sure of that, but equally certain that their flight pay and bonuses would be affected, perhaps even lost entirely. With this pressure already on their shoulders, and the weariness they had borne with months of failures, repairs and the consequent lack of sleep, they did not feel up to the task of repairing Spektr, although they did not say so outright to the ground. To add insult to injury, Tsibliyev suffered from a heart arrhythmia during an exercise period designed to test his health for the upcoming repair. This effectively ruled him out of the work, and put Foale in the spotlight as the only other man who could join Lazutkin to carry out the repair. The final straw for Tsibliyev was when he was told that he could not participate in the spacewalk; he broke down. Lazutkin and Foale did what they could to console him, but his depression extended beyond their capacity to help. Later, Lazutkin was preparing cables for the upcoming repair work, and a badly written checklist caused him to disconnect the power to the main station computer; again the station lost attitude control, and tumbled. The recovery process was long and tiring for the crew, and now they really needed to come home; they had been through more than any crew in history, more even than the crew of Apollo 13. Finally realizing that the crew were at the end of their tether, Russian ground controllers reassigned the repair work to the next crew. Although somewhat dis­appointed, Tsibliyev and Lazutkin were also relieved, and the mood on the station lightened. Tsibliyev joked with the ground when asked about Foale’s new haircut, “I told him I would cut his hair when the cargo ship comes; it came and he said, ‘well, one has come and it hit us, so cut my hair’.’’ They were ready to come home.

Michael Foale would not be coming home with them, but the question of who should succeed him, if anyone, was well underway. Wendy Lawrence was due to replace Foale with the launch of shuttle Atlantis on STS-86, but should her seat remain empty to allow Foale to return home, or should the program continue? It now seemed unlikely that NASA would pull out of Phase 1 entirely. In the event, Lawrence was not chosen to replace Foale. Much earlier in the program it had been identified that Lawrence was too short for the Russian EVA spacesuit; this had not been seen as a problem since no EVA was scheduled for her increment, but the problems on Mir had changed that. Now it was decided that each NASA crewmem­ber had to be capable of carrying out an EVA if it became necessary, and Lawrence could not. She would have to be replaced. This was not to prove as easy as it may of sounded. NASA astronauts that wanted to be a part of the Shuttle-Mir program were extremely thin on the ground, especially after the recent events on Mir. In fact, the only man that they could find was David Wolf, who had previously flown on STS – 58, a Spacelab life sciences flight lasting 14 days, which seemed perfect experience for a flight on board Mir. Unfortunately, Wolf’s career had taken something of a down­turn since then. The occasional brush with the law, and his love of good living meant that he was not likely to be assigned to a shuttle flight for a long time, if ever. For Wolf the choice was straightforward, it was Mir or nothing. The choice was not a trivial one however. Having never served as a back-up to a Mir mission mean that Wolf was starting from scratch, and with much less time to train than all of the previous long-duration crewmembers. If Wolf was not ready in time, or simply could not fly because of illness or injury, Shuttle-Mir would probably be over, and Culbertson and the rest of NASA knew it.

Tsibliyev and Lazutkin’s long mission neared its end on 8 August 1997 when Soyuz-TM 26 docked with Mir bringing with it the next expedition crew of Anatoli Solovyov and Pavel Vinogradov. The old crew packed the existing Soyuz with items to be returned to Earth, and prepared for re-entry. Even the landing of their Soyuz was not without incident. The rockets that were designed to fire moments before the capsule hit the ground, to soften the landing, failed to do so, and the crew landed hard, fortunately without injury to either of them. Tsibliyev knew that now the inquisition could begin.

On board Mir all eyes were now on the repair of Spektr. The plan called for the new crew to install a new hatch to replace the cover hurriedly put in place by Foale and Lazutkin. This new hatch incorporated electrical connectors to link up Spektr’s solar arrays; the loss of the power from these arrays had significantly reduced Mir’s overall power stores. Whilst the crew were inside Spektr, they would also try to find the puncture for future repair.

When the internal spacewalk did take place, it was mostly successful. Vinogradov initially had a problem with his suit, and when they did get inside Spektr it took longer than anticipated to connect up the cables to the new hatch, but eventually they managed to do it, and power flow from the solar arrays was restored. Unfortunately, the crew were not able to find the source of the leak from inside the module, and it was decided that Solovyov and Foale would later try to discover the puncture from outside. That EVA also failed to find the leak, and reluctantly, following further failed attempts to find the leak by the shuttle crews of STS-86 and STS-91, Spektr was abandoned.

STS-86 launched on 25 September 1997 and carried a crew of seven, including Wendy Lawrence and David Wolf; only Wolf would get to remain on the station. Foale was overjoyed to see his friends and colleagues after such a long mission, and they were relieved to see him safe and well.

Wolf’s expedition to Mir seemed boring and incident free compared with both Linenger’s and Foales, but he did carry out an EVA with Solovyov, and despite some initial difficulties with the strict Russian commander, he came to be respected by his Russian crewmates.

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Vinogradov adjusts the hermaplate hatch leading to Spektr

Andy Thomas had never expected to fly to Mir, he had simply been Lawrence’s and then Wolf’s back-up; but when Wendy could not fly, he found himself in the last seat to the space station. He gladly accepted the opportunity, and launched on STS-89 Endeavour’s first and only docking with the Mir space station. His flight increment was the smoothest of all of the Phase 1 missions; he got on well with his crew of Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin, and enjoyed the postponed visit of Frenchman Leopold Eyharts. As he says himself, “I think [my mission] was probably the most placid of all of them. The first person, Norm Thagard [had] … a lot of problems to do with the fact that he was the first, and [I don’t think he had] a lot of the things that you need to sustain yourself. So that must have made it tough for him. I don’t think they had the email situation worked out…

“Shannon [Lucid’s] flight got extended—because of shuttle problems, actually. So she had to stay up there six months instead of four, and that would have been tough, I think. She has a very good spirit about it, though…

“For Jerry [Linenger] there was the fire, of course, and for Mike [Foale] there was the depressurization. So they had some exciting times on theirs. [And] David [Wolf] had a number of power failures during his.

“Mine,” Thomas concludes, “was fairly placid by comparison, which I think is testimony to the capability of the Russians to restore operations, to bring the system

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

Foale reunited with family after landing

back on line, which I think they did well, because I think they recognized… that they were on the world stage and needed to prove that they could do it, and they did that.” Space shuttle Discovery collected Thomas at the end of his increment, and marked the end of the Phase 1 program with the final shuttle docking to Mir. Valery Ryumin was a member of that final crew, his first space flight for 18 years; he reported back to Russia with first hand information on the current state of the Mir space station. Andy Thomas returned to Earth having completed the final Mir increment successfully, he now looked forward to flying to the ISS once it was built. Frank Culbertson too wanted to fly a long-duration mission to the ISS; he had certainly earned it after a long and hard experience as head of Phase 1, butting heads day to day with Ryumin and other Russian officials, as well as those within his own organiz­ation. For Tsibliyev and Lazutkin their concerns proved well founded: initially Tsibliyev was blamed completely for the collision, but Culbertson and others felt strongly that Russian ground controllers and trainers were at least as responsible. Eventually, the officials caved in and exonerated Tsibliyev of all blame, and both cosmonauts were paid their full flight bonuses. However, neither were to fly in space again. Tsibliyev was promoted to command the cosmonaut training division, and

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

STS-91 and Mir-25 in-flight crew portrait

Shuttle-Міг: Real co-operation

NASA’s Mir astronauts

Lazutkin was grounded for unknown medical reasons following several assignments to ISS back-up crews.

Shuttle-Mir proved to be a vital component of the future plans for the ISS. Vital too for the part it played in allowing two disparate nations to settle their differences, and solidify its synergies ahead of the greatest joint program of space history, the International Space Station.

1969—SOYUZ 4 AND 5—FIRST DOCKING BETWEEN MANNED SPACECRAFT

Early in 1969, the Soviets laid claim to having formed the first space laboratory with the docking of two manned spacecraft, the first in history. Soyuz 4 with Vladimir Shatalov on board was launched on 14 January. Soyuz 5 was to follow 24 hours later, the delay being to allow time for Shatalov to acclimatize to orbital conditions before attempting the docking. Soyuz 5 had a crew of three, commander Boris Volynov, and flight engineers Aleksei Yeliseyez and Yevgeni Khrunov. The docking was handled manually by both commanders, and was achieved flawlessly; the first docking of two manned spacecraft. However, appearances can be deceptive. Whilst the two space­craft were physically docked together, it was not possible for the crews to float through the hatches on the nose of the connected orbital modules. Transfer between the two spacecraft was only possible by way of Extravehicular Activity (EVA), or “spacewalking” as it is more popularly known, making use of the side hatches in the orbital modules of both craft. This EVA was a necessary test of the method that

1969—SOYUZ 4 AND 5—FIRST DOCKING BETWEEN MANNED SPACECRAFT

Shatalov describes Soyuz 4 and 5 docking

would be used by a cosmonaut during a Soviet Moon-landing mission. The Soviet lander also had no internal hatch to allow transfer between the vehicles. Yeliseyez and Khrunov carried out the EVA successfully and returned to Earth with Shatalov on board Soyuz 4. Volynov returned with Soyuz 5 alone. Volynov’s re-entry was not without incident, however. He failed to orientate his spacecraft prior to entry, and to add to his problems the propulsion module had not separated completely from his descent module, which caused the spacecraft to tumble and face the wrong way for re­entry. Just as Volynov thought that disaster was near, the module separated, and his descent module turned to face the right way. His problems were not over yet; the parachute lines then began to tangle, but fortunately sorted themselves out before the parachutes had fully inflated, and he landed successfully, although much harder than normal, he broke free from his harness, and broke several of his front teeth against the opposite bulkhead. He staggered from his capsule and found a peasant’s hut where the occupants cared for him until help arrived; he was grounded for two years.

It had not been a long duration flight by any means, and the spacecraft remained docked for only four and a half hours, but it had been a successful prelude to manned dockings with orbital space stations, if not perhaps the world’s first space laboratory.

The International Space Station… at last

Looking at NASA’s recent history of trying to build a space station, the casual viewer might think it a miracle that anything ever got off the ground, but this would be an unfair assessment. NASA did its best in an ever changing political world, both at home and abroad, and through several different presidencies and administrators. In some ways, the agency was its own worst enemy; its designs were always leading edge and therefore very expensive and time consuming to build, and therefore unlikely to be approved by Congress in times of financial constraint.

However, in 1998 the first hardware of the International Space Station (ISS) stood ready. After almost 14 years of political turmoil, numerous redesigns, and countless billions of dollars, NASA and its partners were finally ready to launch hardware into space. These first components were the Russian FGB, or Functional Cargo Block, called Zarya, which was a module that would give the early station attitude control, and the U. S. Node 1, or Unity, which was a connecting module to allow for further expansion of the station. Zarya, which was based on the TKS design from Chelomei’s design bureau back in 1969, was launched in November 1998 on a Russian Proton rocket, and was followed by the space shuttle Endeavour on mission STS-88 in December. The crew connected the two modules together, and carried out spacewalks to electrically link the modules, Sergei Krikalev was a mission specialist on this crew, as well as being a member of the planned first expedition. STS-96 followed in May 1999 with supplies for the first expedition, and carried out further spacewalks to “get ahead’’ before the Russian Service Module was launched.

January 2000 saw a seemingly unrelated meeting of Congress that created the Iran Non-Proliferation Act. In short this act disallowed any U. S. companies or organizations (including government agencies) from paying money to any country helping Iran with its nuclear program. Russia is one such country. On the face of it, this did not seem of any concern to the ISS program which was still early in its construction, and early too in its partnership with Russia. NASA already had a contract with Russia to provide 11 Soyuz and Progress spacecraft for crew rotation

The International Space Station... at last

Proton launching Zarya

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 1 crew

and cargo delivery to the ISS that would last until April 2006. This contract was exempt from the new act as it had been agreed before the act’s creation. It surely would not become a problem later, because NASA planned to have its own Crew Return Vehicle in place by then, and the European Space Agency (ESA) was creating its own cargo delivery system (the Automated Transfer Vehicle) which was due to be ready before that date.

As the Service Modules’ delays increased, it was decided to fly another shuttle logistics mission, STS-101, in May 2000 to bring further supplies. The much delayed Service Module, Zvezda, was launched in July 2000, and docked with the orbiting Unity/Zarya combination. A Progress craft M1-3 docked at Zvezda’s rear port shortly after and replenished the fuel that had been used during the launch and docking procedures. The space shuttle Atlantis was launched in September on mis­sion STS-106 to carry out the final outfitting of Zvezda prior to the arrival of Expedition 1; Atlantis also fired its engines to raise the orbit of the fledgling station. STS-92 launched in October with the first element of the truss assembly, and an additional docking port to be attached to the Unity module, and Discovery’s engines further raised the ISS orbit before it left.

Finally, the station was ready to receive its first crew. Soyuz-TM 31 was launched on 31 October 2000 carrying Soyuz commander Yuri Gidzenko, Expedition 1 com­mander William Shepherd and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev.

They docked with the station on 2 November, and entered shortly after. They were restricted to the two Russian modules initially, as there was not enough power

The International Space Station... at last

Proton launching Zvezda

available to facilitate the use of Unity. The space shuttle Endeavour brought that additional power in the form of the first solar array truss, on the mission STS-97 in December 2000, and over the next few days the two huge solar arrays were deployed, and the internal and external connections made to enable the flow of power to the station.

The next major component of the ISS, the Destiny research laboratory, was launched aboard STS-98 on 7 February 2001 and connected to the station on the 10 February. Spacewalks were carried out to facilitate external connections between Destiny and Unity, and Atlantis raised the ISS orbit before leaving.

The Expedition 1 crew moved their Soyuz from the rear port of Zvezda to the downward or nadir (Earth-facing) port of Zarya, thus freeing the rear port for more Progress dockings. The first crew’s stay was nearly at an end, and when Discovery was launched on STS-102 with the Expedition 2 crew aboard it was time for NASA’s first crew rotation of the ISS program. The new crew consisted of commander Yuri Usachev, and flight engineers Susan Helms and James Voss. The rotation plan called for a rather complex one-at-a-time swap of crewmembers from ISS to the shuttle.

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

STS-98 crew in an unusual pose

This routine was dropped on later crew rotation missions. STS-102 landed on the 21 March ending the first expedition to the ISS.

In April 2001 Endeavour was launched on mission STS-100, bringing the Cana­dian robotic arm to the station. The Canadarm-2 was vital to future station con­struction and operations, so this was an important mission; all was not to go smoothly, however. On the night of 24 April one of the command and control computers on board the ISS went offline unexpectedly, and the crew was woken to troubleshoot the problem, causing NASA to extend Endeavour’s mission by two days, and thereby conflicting with the upcoming first Soyuz “taxi” mission to replace the ISS Soyuz with a new one. The Russians agreed that the taxi Soyuz would be launched on time assuming that by the time it arrived at the station, the shuttle would be gone. If Endeavour was still there, as it was, then the Soyuz would remain in formation with the ISS. The Canadarm-2 passed its first tests successfully, but there were still lingering doubts over some of the computer systems on the ISS. However, Endeavour undocked and left the station on 29 April, leaving the way clear for

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 3 crew

Soyuz-TM 32, or EP-1 as the Russians called the mission. This mission was already controversial because of the inclusion of Dennis Tito, the first space tourist, on the crew. NASA argued that he was unqualified, especially on NASA systems, and therefore a danger to the station; the Russians countered that he was bringing valuable revenue to their space program, and therefore indispensable. It was finally agreed that Tito would limit himself to the Russian modules unless escorted by a U. S. crewmember; in reality Tito was happy to listen to music and gaze out of the windows in Zvezda during his six days aboard the station, but he did help out by preparing meals and doing odd jobs for the resident crew. Problems with the Canadarm-2 persisted, and the launch of the next shuttle mission was postponed, as it would require the use of the arm to install the first dedicated airlock module, called Quest, on the station. STS-104 was launched with the Quest airlock in July, and it was successfully installed without any major problems.

STS-105 followed in August with the next crew rotation, Expedition 3, comman­der Frank Culbertson, Soyuz commander Vladimir Dezhurov, and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin. After all of the trials of the Phase 1 program, Culbertson made it back into space, eight years after his commanded shuttle mission STS-51. This crew would have the distinction of being the only humans in orbit during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and it soon emerged that Culbertson had gone to flight school with the pilot of the airliner, Chic Burlingame, that hit the Pentagon. He wrote a letter home about the attack that was published on the NASA ISS website, in which he concluded “What a terrible loss, but I’m sure Chic was fighting bravely to the end. And tears don’t flow the same in space…’’

The next taxi mission, Soyuz-TM 33, arrived on the 23 October, carrying the crew of Viktor Afanasiev, flight engineer Konstantin Kazeev and French astronaut Claudie Haignere. This crew spent eight days on board the ISS, where Haignere performed experiments for ESA under the Andromeda program before the crew’s return in the older Soyuz-TM 32 spacecraft that had been docked to the ISS since the end of April.

STS-108 carried the Expedition 4 crew of commander Yuri Onufrienko and flight engineers Dan Bursch and Carl Walz to the station on the 7 December, and left on the 15 December. This crew had a fairly quiet time, apart from the failure of a wrist joint on the stations robot arm, and had not received any visitors until Atlantis arrived with a new segment for the truss element of the station in April 2002.

The third taxi mission, Soyuz-TM 34, docked on the 27 April, with the crew of Russian commander Yuri Gidzenko, and Italian researcher for ESA, Roberto Vittori. It also included the second space tourist in its crew. This time there was no controversy. South African Mark Shuttleworth had been completely trained on all aspects of station operations, both Russian and U. S., and had a scientific program to work through. This mission was to be the last launch of a Soyuz-TM spacecraft; the next launch would be the newer Soyuz-TMA version. Of course, the older Soyuz – TM 34 would remain docked to the ISS as the emergency crew return vehicle until it was replaced by the newer version. Again, the taxi crew spent eight days on board the station before leaving in the older Soyuz-TM 33 spacecraft on the 5 April.

In 2002 NASA canceled both the CRV (Crew Return Vehicle) and the ISS Habitation module. At a stroke this immediately reduced the maximum crew of the ISS to three, as this is obviously the number of crew that a Soyuz can carry. Without the Habitation module there would be nowhere for additional crew mem­bers to eat and sleep. By doing this, NASA broke several agreements with its International partners and created a great deal of ill feeling within the scientific community as it was fully realized that it took at least two crewmembers full-time just to keep the station running, this leaving barely one crewmember to carry out any science at all. Certainly it would not be possible for any international astronauts to now fly to the station to tend their own experiments, as there would be no room for them to live aboard, the station. The obvious choice in the short term would be to make use of more Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, but this was not possible. All of a sudden the Iran Non-proliferation Act which had seemed unimportant a year ago was thrown into sharp relief. NASA could not buy anymore of anything from Russia without breaking the law. However, the end of that contract was still five years away, and the shuttle would be able to pick up any slack until then, wouldn’t it? In the meantime, NASA planned to go ahead with development of the Orbital Space Plane (OSP) concept, although this would not be ready until at least 2008.

I’m sure you are beginning to see a pattern forming by now. Every NASA plan would be first put on hold, and then canceled, to be replaced by something even more expensive, and even further into the reaches of time, after they had already spent way over their budget on the first project. The OSP project was canceled in 2004, and replaced by the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), of which, more later.

On 5 June 2002, STS-111 was launched with the Expedition 5 crew of Valery Korzun, Peggy Whitson, and Sergei Treschev. Whitson was flying in the newly created role of NASA Science Officer. This was seen as something of an appeasement to the science community, who argued that not enough science was being carried out on the ISS. When Endeavour landed ending the Expedition 4 mission, Bursch and Walz had set a new U. S. duration record of 195 days. During the mission of Expedition 5, the space shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded by the discovery of cracks in the hydrogen lines for the main engines. The problem was fixable, but delayed all subsequent shuttle missions. Therefore, it was not until October that Atlantis was launched on STS-112 with more components for the truss segment, plus supplies for the resident crew.

At the beginning of November, the next taxi mission, Soyuz-TMA 1, docked with the station, originally the EP-4 crew was to have included American singer Lance Bass, but not all of the money for his flight was forthcoming, and the Russians were strict. He was replaced by Russian cosmonaut Yuri Lonchakov. The rest of the crew consisted of commander Sergei Zalyotin, and ESA astronaut Frank De Winne of Belgium who would carry out a program of experiments for ESA. The taxi crew returned to Earth in Soyuz-TM 34, leaving the new Soyuz-TMA 1 for the resident crew.

STS-113 arrived at the station at the end of November 2002 with another truss segment, and the Expedition 6 crew. The new ISS crew included commander Ken Bowersox and flight engineers Don Pettit and Nikolai Budarin, with Pettit also taking on the role of NASA Science Officer. Budarin had flown twice before to the Mir space station, including a launch on the U. S. shuttle Atlantis on STS-71. Bowersox had flown on the U. S. shuttle four times previously; twice as pilot, and twice as com­mander. Pettit was making his first space flight on Expedition 6, replacing Don Thomas who had to stand down for medical reasons. The crew of STS-113 had also undergone a crew change when the original pilot Gus Loria was replaced by Paul Lockhart, who had just flown on STS-111, when Loria injured his back at home which caused him to miss too much training time. Both of these changes required new mission patches for both STS-113 and Expedition 6, which made the original STS – 113 patch with Loria and Thomas on it a rare item.

On the 1 February 2003 NASA’s worst nightmare scenario came to pass. The space shuttle Columbia was destroyed during re-entry, after a non-ISS scientific mission. The reasons for Columbia’s tragic loss have been well documented elsewhere and need not be repeated. However, the loss would have massive implications for the immediate future of the ISS, its future beyond April 2006, and indeed the future of NASA itself.

The big date that NASA had been aiming at for the last couple of years was 19 February 2004. This was the date that the station would be triumphantly pro­claimed to be “U. S. Core Complete”, which was to say that certain key U. S. modules (including the important Node 2) would be connected to the station, and NASA could progress to fulfilling its promises to its international partners to launch their modules to the station. ESA and Japan in particular were keen to get their Columbus and Kibo (respectively) science modules launched and docked to the station after many delays.

Clearly, immediate changes to operations would need to be made, starting with the very next expedition. With Expedition 6 only just settled on the station, any changes were not urgent in nature, apart from the question of how best to get that crew home. Originally, they had been scheduled to be swapped with the Expedition 7 crew at that time consisting of commander Yuri Malenchenko, Sergei Moschenko and NASA’s Edward Lu, who would fly up on shuttle mission STS-114. However, changes to the personnel of Expedition 7 were taking place even before the Columbia accident. Sergei Moschenko was replaced by Aleksandr Kaleri, apparently because Moschenko’s English was not up to scratch.

On 1 April 2003, exactly two months after the Columbia accident, it was announced by NASA that the Expedition 7 crew would be reduced from three to two, and would consist of commander Malenchenko and NASA Science Officer and flight engineer Lu. Kaleri was bumped to back-up the flight of Expedition 7, and would later fly on board Expedition 8 with NASA’s Michael Foale in command. The reduction of crew from three to two would help to reduce the demands on the station’s food and water supply which would now only be replenished by Progress freighters, which could not carry anything like as much cargo as the shuttle. The crew rotations would now be carried out using the Soyuz-TMA spacecraft, which meant that the taxi missions were on hold for now, blocking a source of income for the Russians.

Therefore, on 26 April 2003 Soyuz-TMA 2 was launched with the two-man Expedition 7 crew of Malenchenko and Lu, replacing Bowersox, Pettit, and Budarin, who would return to Earth aboard Soyuz-TMA 1. Their return was not entirely straightforward, as the crew landed 460 km short of their target due to a computer error which commanded the capsule into a ballistic re-entry path, subjecting the crew to higher g loads than normal.

Soyuz-TMA 3 launched with the Expedition 8 crew of Foale and Kaleri in October 2003, with the Expedition 7 crew coming home in the older Soyuz-TMA 2. Foale now commanded a space station after his eventful flight aboard Mir. This expedition was trouble-free by comparison. This process was repeated in April 2004 with the launch of Soyuz-TMA 4 with the Expedition 9 crew of Gennady Padalka and Michael Fincke. The Expedition 10 crew of Leroy Chiao and Salizhan Sharipov were launched to the station on board Soyuz-TMA 5 on 14 October 2004. The pair stayed on board the ISS for 192 days and landed back on Earth on 24 April 2005 after enduring many ongoing problems with the station’s Elektron oxygen generating system. Sharipov attempted repairs for many days but the system was still offline and awaited the efforts of the Expedition 11 crew of Sergei Krikalev and John Philips.

On 26 July 2005 the space shuttle returned to flight after two and half years on the ground. The flight of STS-114 Discovery was a life saver to the ISS program as it relieved so many problems at once. The replacement CMG that had failed so long ago would be repaired, and the gathering rubbish and clutter on board the station would be greatly reduced by the Raffaelo module due to be delivered by Discovery which would also bring desperately needed new supplies including food and water. Following missions would restart the construction process. Unfortunately, that all fell flat after about a minute and a half of flight, when it became apparent that the fixes to the external tank (ET) of the shuttle were not all that NASA had hoped they would be. Newly installed cameras showed a large piece of foam from the ET falling away as the solid rocket boosters (SRB) separated. The chunk of foam missed Discovery, but it was quickly realized that it could have inflicted just as much damage as that visited upon Columbia two and a half years earlier. Although Discovery continued with her mission, the shuttle was once again grounded until further notice pending the solution to the foam problem. When Discovery reached the ISS it carried out a pre-planned pitch over maneuvre so that the crew on board the ISS could photograph Discovery’s underside to check for missing and/or damaged tiles. Unfor­tunately, many damaged tiles were discovered, seeming to prove beyond doubt that the external tank foam problem was just as bad as ever, and that re-grounding the shuttle was the right thing to do. The next shuttle mission, STS-121, was postponed until at least May 2006, after the deadline for NASA’s existing agreement with Russia for Soyuz had run out.

The Expedition 12 crew of Bill McArthur and Valery Tokarev were launched to the station on 1 October 2005 on board Soyuz-TMA 7 along with space tourist Greg Olsen. The new residents were relieved by Expedition 13 in March 2006. On 11 October 2005, Soyuz TMA-6 landed with the crew of Expedition 11, and space tourist Greg Olsen. Sergei Krikalev and John Philips had spent 179 days in space, and Krikalev was now the most travelled cosmonaut or astronaut in history with a grand total of 803 days in orbit from his two missions to Mir, two space shuttle flights, and two stays aboard the ISS.

On 26 October 2005, the House of Representatives came to NASA’s rescue when it voted to allow the space agency exemption from the Iran Non­Proliferation Act. This meant that they could buy Soyuz and Progress spacecraft from Russia until 2012. This allowed NASA to concentrate on finishing construction of the station without having to deliver new crews on the shuttle as well, and assured U. S. astronauts access to the ISS. All future crew rotations were to be carried out by the Soyuz craft, and cargo delivered by the Progress, with much heavier items being lifted into orbit by the shuttle once it finally returned to flight. Certainly this would prove to be much more cost effective for NASA as each Soyuz flight costs in the region of only $65 million, instead of at least $500 million for each shuttle launch.

The date 1 November 2005 marked an important day in the history of the ISS. The station had been continually occupied for 1,826 days, or 5 years. Since the first crew’s arrival, the ISS had grown considerably and now weighed 183 tonnes, with a habitable volume of 424m3; by comparison Skylab weighed 90 tonnes with a volume of 361 m3, and Russia’s Mir weighed 110 tonnes with a volume of 380 m3. There had been 97 visitors on board the station from 10 countries; and 29 had lived aboard as

The International Space Station... at last

The International Space Station... at last

Expedition 13 patch without and with Reiter’s name and German nag

members of the 12 station expedition crews. Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev was the only one so far to have served as a member of two resident crews.

On the 7 December 2005 the crew of Expedition 13 was announced, and consisted of station commander Pavel Vinogradov and U. S. astronaut Jeffrey Williams, they were to be joined on Soyuz TMA-8 by Brazilian Marco Pontes, who had trained at NASA as a mission specialist for a time until the agreement with Brazil for ISS components had been discontinued. He was to stay about one week.

It was not until July 2006 that STS-121 finally got off the ground, almost a year since the less-successful-than-hoped STS-114. This mission had originally been sched­uled as a somewhat anti-climatic follow up to STS-114; it would simply repeat and revalidate most of the feats of the previous mission. It had not existed in the original pre-Columbia flight schedule, and had been added to reinforce the fact that the shuttle was once again safe to fly, hence its “out of sequence’’ numbering. However, after the failure of STS-114 to completely validate the new foam application process on the ET, the mission took on a new importance, rather than being just a follow-up, it would be an important milestone in proving the shuttle to be fit for purpose. It would also deliver a new crewmember to the ISS, bringing the permanent crew up to a full strength of three for the first time since Expedition 6. Thomas Reiter of the ESA would also be the first long-time crewmember from outside the U. S. or Russia.

The foam failures on STS-114 had come from an area of the tank that contained the attachment points for the SRBs, specifically, from an aerodynamic ramp in front of the attachments. NASA engineers had come to the conclusion that the best solution would be to remove those ramps completely, and remove the risk of foam shedding at the same time. However, these ramps had been previously thought to be essential aerodynamic aids for launch, and some were nervous about what effect their removal might have. On 4 July 2006, all worries were laid to rest when Discovery launched flawlessly into orbit with its crew of six, plus ISS crewmember Reiter. This time the ET performed perfectly, and no damage was seen on Discovery’s thermal protection system. The crew carried out the same checks as the flight of STS-114, and the same pitch-over maneuvre that was to be a part of all ISS docking approaches. Once docked at the station, the crew delivered more supplies, carried out two space­walks to test future safety options, and made a few repairs on the ISS. The crew undocked, and landed on 17 July after leaving Thomas Reiter on the ISS to officially join the Expedition 13 crew.

The Expedition 14 crew consisted of U. S. commander Michael Lopez-Alegria, and two flight engineers, cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and astronaut Sunita Williams. The first two crew were launched on board Soyuz-TMA 9, whilst Williams flew to the ISS aboard STS-116 in December 2006. This continued the trend set by Thomas Reiter flying to the ISS aboard STS-121, the intention being to carry on the practice of sending the third crewman to the ISS aboard the shuttle to allow the Russians to sell the third seat on the Soyuz to potential researchers or tourists. In fact the format of the expedition crews was to change somewhat from Expedition 14 onwards. The crew size remained at three, but the third crewmember would change more frequently so that each expedition would have two or three different flight engineers, some from the partner nations such Japan, Canada, and ESA.

With the return of STS-121, NASA had renewed confidence in the shuttle’s abilities, and wanted to press on with the construction of the ISS. STS-115 with its crew of six was to add two pairs of new solar arrays to the ISS to provide power for the future Columbus and Kibo laboratories, and they would be supplemented by the crew of STS-117 in 2007. The space shuttle Atlantis was ready for its first space flight in four years, although not without some difficulty. A hurricane was due to hit the Kennedy Space Center whilst Atlantis was sitting on the pad, and the decision was taken to roll Atlantis back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), however, just as the shuttle was halfway back, the forecast changed and NASA managers decided to take Atlantis back to the pad after all. This was the first time in the shuttle’s history that such a move had been made. On 9 September 2006, Atlantis hurled herself into orbit to begin a 12-day construction mission. After the now standard checks of the shuttle tile system, which showed no damage at all, Atlantis docked with the ISS and prepared for the first of three spacewalks that would be carried out by this crew. First the new solar arrays, and the truss they are attached to, had to be lifted out the shuttle’s cargo bay using the shuttle’s robot arm and handed over to the station’s robot arm before they were attached to the station, this involved great precision and communication between Dan Burbank and Chris Ferguson, who were operating the shuttle’s arm, and Canadian Steve MacLean who was on board the ISS operating its

Canadarm-2. The new truss was left in the grasp of the stations arm until the next day, when spacewalkers Joe Tanner and Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper removed the launch restraining bolts and began wiring the new arrays to the station after the truss was firmly attached to the existing structure. Steve MacLean and Dan Burbank continued the work on the flight’s second spacewalk, and the following Thursday the commands were sent to begin the unfurling of the new solar arrays. There were some concerns at this stage that the arrays might stick (they had, after all, been packed in their storage box for over three years due to the delays in the shuttle program) but they deployed perfectly to their full length of 240 ft. A third spacewalk by Tanner and Stefanyshyn-Piper completed the work by removing the last restraints that allowed a radiator to unfurl, and also upgraded the stations communications system. STS-115 had been an outstanding success, but it was not without its little last minute drama. Two days after undocking from the ISS, as the crew prepared for re­entry, a small object was observed by ground radar floating just below the shuttle’s belly. They immediately postponed the planned de-orbit burn to give them time to diagnose this discovery. The next day permission for re-entry was given after the crew had carried out another check of the thermal protection system with the shuttle arm and boom; it was later decided that the object was almost certainly a plastic tile gap filer, and that the other smaller bits of debris probably came from the cargo bay, and were a result of Atlantis’ prolonged down time between flights.

One more flight remained in 2006; the December launch of STS-116 with the shuttle Discovery. The crew of seven contained five rookies, amongst them Sunita Williams, who was to become the second new member of the Expedition 14 crew on the ISS. She would remain on board for the next six months, crossing over the period when Expedition 15 took over command of the station. ISS resident Thomas Reiter would be brought back to Earth after his long stay on the ISS that began with the launch of STS-121. There were more criteria for Discovery’s launch than previous missions, mostly due to the time of year; NASA did not want the shuttle to still be in orbit during the New Year crossover, as it was felt that the on board computers may have a hard time dealing with the new date. A second consideration were the orbital thermal conditions during December which made it preferable to launch between 7 and 26 December, because the shuttle must launch as the ISS passes into the correct orbital plane for the shuttle’s ascent path, this dictated a night-time launch, the first since the Columbia accident. Night launches had been ruled out by the safety commission due to the needs of ground-based photography to inspect the shuttles tiles and ET during launch; however, NASA felt that the last two missions had provided enough confidence over the launch performance of the redesigned ET to allow this requirement to be waived. Lastly, an engine firing by the docked Progress freighter was required to boost the ISS orbit enough to allow a docking on flight day three of the mission regardless of the day of launch. The first attempt at this firing had failed, possibly due to the station’s unbalanced current configuration, but a second attempt, carried out a week later with a software patch to compensate for the station’s off-axis center of mass, was successful and allowed Discovery’s countdown to begin as scheduled. Unfortunately, the first launch attempt was scrubbed due to unacceptable weather at the launch site. The second try was scheduled two days later, as the weather forecast for a 24-hour turnround were thought unlikely to be any better. On Saturday 9 December, mission STS-116 got underway despite the weather looking to be uncooperative for most of the countdown. The spectacular light show put on by the shuttle’s main engines and SRBs was enough for some of the launch photography to be carried out, but in fact such pictures were not really necessary, as the launch proceeded flawlessly, and as Shuttle Program Manager Wayne Hale said, “We’re not relying on those ascent-based observations for the safety of that particu­lar flight, we’re relying on the inspection of the heat shield, which we do in excruciat­ing detail on orbit now to make sure they’re safe to come back.’’ On flight day three, as scheduled, Discovery docked with the ISS and immediately the crew set to work, Sunita Williams installed her seat liner in the docked Soyuz for use in an emergency evacuation of the station, and at that moment became an official member of the Expedition 14 crew. Thomas Reiter, had until that moment, been part of the resident crew, but now joined the STS-116 crew in preparation for his return to Earth. Rookie mission specialist Nicholas Patrick, born in England, hoisted the new solar array truss out of the payload bay and handed it over to the ISS robot arm operated by Sunita Williams, where it would wait until the next day and the first of the planned Extravehicular Activities (EVAs). The first EVA was to be carried out by veteran space walker Robert Curbeam and his partner Rookie Swedish astronaut Christer Fuglesang. They successfully installed the new segment of truss on the end of it’s existing length. The first EVA was so trouble-free that they were able to tackle a couple of tasks from the next EVAs schedule in order to ensure that the mission kept ahead of the timeline in case something unexpected happened later in the mission. Something unexpected duly did occur the very next day, when ground controllers attempted to fold up one of the existing solar arrays to allow them to be moved during a later mission, and also to allow enough clearance for the adjacent arrays installed during STS-115 to begin to rotate to track the Sun. The array refused to fold up by the required amount, getting stuck after only about half of its length had been retracted. Ground controllers decided to press ahead with the rest of the mission’s EVAs whilst they worked on possible solutions. Curbeam and Fuglesang carried out a second EVA to rewire the station’s power supply in readiness for more solar arrays; so successful were their efforts that the spacewalk ended an hour early. The third EVA, which was to feature ISS resident Sunita Williams’ first EVA with Curbeam, continued with the rewiring efforts and also reconfigured some of the station’s cool­ing systems as well. Ground controllers had decided to add a task to this EVA, if there was time, to get the spacewalkers to look at the stuck solar array and try to provide more information on the problem, and if time allowed, carry out repair efforts. The spacewalking crew managed to coax the array further into its box, but a stubborn part on one side of the array stopped further progress as the astronauts’ time for this spacewalk had run out. Ground controllers decided to add a fourth EVA to the already crowded flight plan for the very next day, that they hoped would finally put the array back in its box. However, the extra time needed for an additional EVA did not come without a price. The crew would have to sacrifice a planned contingency landing day, which would mean that Discovery would have less time to play with in the event of unacceptable weather at the primary landing sites at the Kennedy Space

Center (KSC), Edwards Air Force Base, or Nothrup Strip at White Sands in New Mexico. The White Sands landing site has only ever been used once in the shuttle’s history, at the end of Columbia’s third test flight; engineers on the ground say that it took years to get all of the gypsum out of Columbia’s nooks and crannies. The fourth EVA proved to be successful when Curbeam managed to coax the last of the array into its box. This prepared the way for the crew of STS-120 which will fly toward the end of 2007, to relocate the array to the other end of the station. Discovery undocked from the ISS the next day and began preparations for its return to Earth. Commander Mark Polansky said, “It’s always a goal to try and leave some place in better shape than it was when you came and I think we’ve accomplished that due to everyone’s hard work. And so with that, I hope we’re really on our way to a great start for assembly completion.’’ Discovery and her crew attempted to land at the first oppor­tunity, but were waived off when the weather at both KSC and Edwards became unacceptable; they would have to wait another orbit (an hour and a half) before they could try again. Then, with minutes to go, KSC’s weather decided to co-operate, just, and the crew were given a “go” to carry out the de-orbit burn, Discovery completed the mission after nearly 13 days with a smooth touchdown on KSC’s concrete runway ending STS-116 and the long-duration mission of some six months for Thomas Reiter.

The year 2006 had been a successful one for NASA and its ISS partners. STS-116 had added more power to the station, and the stage was set for the next shuttle flight, STS-117, to finish that work. Atlantis was due for launch on 15 March after being rolled out to the pad on 15 February and everything appeared to be on schedule to meet that launch date, when on 26 February a freak hailstorm tore through the Kennedy Space Center causing damage to the exposed nose of the external tank. At first it was hoped that the damage would not be too bad, and that repairs could be carried out at the pad, but inspection revealed at least 1,000 points of damage, additional damage was found on Atlantis’ left wing and a rollback to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) was essential. When the shuttle got back to the VAB and close inspections were possible it was finally determined that there were 2,644 points of damage. The repair effort was clearly going to take some time, and the launch schedule for the year was now under threat. The original launch schedule had called for STS-117/Atlantis to be launched mid-March, followed by STS-118/Endeavour in June, and STS-120/Atlantis in September, with STS-122/Discovery rounding out the year in November. The turnaround of Atlantis after STS-117 for launch again on STS-120 would also have been very difficult in such a short timescale. On the 16 April, NASA announced a new flight schedule which still allowed four missions to the ISS in 2007. The complete schedule can be found in more detail in Appendix A, but the summary is:

STS-117/Atlantis (8 June 2007)

STS-118/Endeavour (9 August 2007)

STS-120/Discovery (20 October 2007)

STS-122/Atlantis (6 December)

STS-123/Endeavour (14 February 2008)

STS – 124/Discovery (24 April 2008)

STS – 119/Endeavour (10 July 2008)

NASA was not having a very good start to year in other respects as well. A great deal of unwanted media interest was focused on the space agency when astronaut Lisa Nowak, who had flown on STS-121, was arrested on 5 February. It was alleged that Nowak, a U. S. Navy Captain, had tried to kidnap her perceived rival for the attentions of fellow astronaut, U. S. Navy Commander Bill Oefelein. Oefelein has just recently returned from his first spaceflight as pilot on STS-116 in December last year. The court case is not due to take place for some months but NASA relieved Nowak of her duties at the Johnson Space Center, and returned her to the Navy, stating that the Navy were better equipped to deal with this case than NASA.

Better news came on 7 April, when the Expedition 15 crew of Fyodor Yurchikhin and Oleg Kotov, along with space tourist Charles Simonyi were launched successfully to the ISS. Simonyi is the fifth space tourist to fly by virtue of an agreement with Space Adventures Ltd. Simonyi is best known as being the man behind software applications such as Word and Excel. Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Oleg Kotov will replace Expedition 14 commander Michael Lopez-Alegria and flight engineer Mikhail Tyurin, the third ISS crewmember Sunita Williams will remain on board until she is replaced by Clay Anderson. On 2 April, Lopez-Alegria became the longest flying U. S. astronaut when he broke the existing record set by Expedition 4 of 196 days, however, this record may be broken by Sunita Williams if she still returns to Earth on board STS-118/Endeavour which is now delayed until August 2007. After the change in the space shuttle’s launch schedule, some thought was being given within NASA to returning Williams on STS-117 in June rather than waiting for STS-118. At the time of writing no final decision had been reached. Even if she does not break the endurance record, Sunita has already broken a record of a different kind when she took part in the Boston marathon on 16 April. She was an official participant running on the stations treadmill whilst fellow astro­naut Karen Nyberg took part on the ground. Running on the treadmill is an important part of any astronauts exercise regime whilst on a long-duration mission, and Williams, who is an accomplished marathon runner, had been training for this run for most of her flight so far. She finished the “course’’ in 4 hours, 23 minutes, and 10 seconds.

In the remainder of 2007 it is important to NASA’s schedule to complete the ISS, with several missions adding essential parts to the station. STS-117 will add more solar arrays—extra power that is essential to the new modules that are due to be delivered over the next two years. STS-118 will add another segment of the station’s truss structure. In addition it will see the flight of Barbara Morgan, Christa McAuliffe’s back-up for the tragic STS-51L Teacher in Space mission. STS-120 adds another vital component to the growth of the ISS when it launches with Node 2, now called Harmony. Harmony will serve the same purpose as Unity currently does, as an interconnecting module for future labs such as Columbus and Kibo. STS-122 will take the long awaited European Space Agency lab, Columbus, to the station, before

The International Space Station... at last

Sunita Williams running on treadmill

2008 when STS-123 and STS-124 will attach the various parts of Japan’s Kibo lab to the station. Beyond that will be the installation of Node 3, more solar arrays and truss segments, before the ISS is declared complete (see color plates for the complete ISS assembly sequence).