Category The Story of Manned Space Stations

Mission patches

Mission patches have been part of manned space flight for such a long time that it is easy to forget their origins. It is also easy to think of them as being predominantly an American initiative, but this not so.

The Mercury astronauts wore the first patches, but they were simply the insignia of NASA. Instead of mission specific patches, these pioneering astronauts gave their spacecraft names. The practice began when Alan Shepard named his spacecraft Freedom 7, the number 7 came not from the number of astronauts in the group as many have thought, but simply from the fact that this was the seventh spacecraft built. Subsequent crews named their craft with the seven suffix, and instead of the simple stencilled names on the spacecraft sides that Shepard and Grissom had, they came up with designs, logos if you like for their missions, with the help of an artist. These designs were much later made into woven patches, but they never existed in that form at the time of the missions.

Once the first crew had been announced for the Gemini program, Mercury veteran Gus Grissom, who would command the flight of Gemini 3, naturally wanted to continue the tradition of naming his spacecraft. He came up with the name “Molly Brown” after the Broadway musical of the time “The Unsinkable Molly Brown”, clearly this was a reference to his Mercury flight that had ended up sinking. NASA officials thought that this name was inappropriate, and had been privately thinking for a while that this whole naming thing was getting out of hand, so they banned Grissom from using this name and demanded that he come up with an alternative. When he revealed that he rather liked the sound of “Titanic”, they banned the future naming of spacecraft forthwith. NASA officials thought that the whole thing had been put to bed, but the next crew for Gemini 4 also wanted to commemorate their flight in some way, they had intended to name the spacecraft “American Eagle”, but the recent banning had put paid to that. Instead, they decided that they would wear U. S. flags on the shoulders of their spacesuits, and every U. S. crew since then has done the same.

Mission patches officially came into being with the flight of Gemini 5, the crew of Gordon Cooper and Peter Conrad had already done battle with NASA Headquarters about naming their craft, and when they were also turned down they came up with the idea of a personal mission patch. It reflected the idea of U. S. military personnel having individual unit patches, and since the astronauts considered each crew to be a unit it seemed appropriate for each mission to have a patch. Conrad’s father-in-law came up with the idea of a covered Conestoga wagon as part of the design, the idea being that it reflected the early pioneering spirit, and Cooper and Conrad added the slogan “8 Days or Bust’’ since that was the intended duration of their flight. Unfortunately, Jim Webb the then NASA Administrator, did not share the crew’s enthusiasm, in fact it’s fair to say that he lost his sense of humour over the whole thing. Both crewmembers pointed out that it was perfect for morale for the whole team of people involved in the flight to be able to wear such a patch. Webb saw their point but insisted that the slogan be covered up until the flight had successfully flown for that long, only at the end of a successful eight-day flight could they reveal it. The mission patch was here to stay, but NASA Headquarters insisted that they approve the design of every patch before it was made public, a practice that continues today. The naming of spacecraft made a brief re-appearance during the Apollo program when there would be two separate spacecraft flying at the same time, which needed to be identified by radio. Again, NASA Headquarters had to approve these names in advance.

All subsequent mission patches have featured the names of the crew, and imagery appropriate to the nature and objectives of the flight. Only six patches have appeared that did not contain any names at all. Gemini 7 and 10, Apollo 11 and 13, and much more recently, ISS Expedition 14, 15, and 16. This is becoming a more common practice with ISS missions, as many now routinely include several changing crew members. Expedition 15 has six different versions with different crew names, and this situation needs to be avoided in the future.

The appearance of names on patches has caused some headaches in the past, and indeed continues to do so today. In the early days of the space shuttle program, some crews decided to add the name of the particular shuttle that they were going to fly on board. Of course, this was a problem if the mission scheduling changed, and they were assigned a different shuttle, the patches would have to be changed. This particular problem came to a head with the flight of 41-E/41-F, which was originally assigned to fly Discovery, it was then changed to Challenger and renamed 51-E, and in addition, a payload specialist was added to the crew, his name was added as a tab sewn onto the bottom of the design. Unfortunately, for the patch manufacturer who had just completed these changes, a seventh crewmember was added, so they cut off the existing tab and replaced it with a new one with two names. This was not the end of the nightmare, however, since 51-E was then canceled, and crews jumbled around, the original core crew of 51-E remained, now given the flight 51-D, but one of the payload specialist had changed, and so had the space shuttle, it was to be Discovery again. The good news was that the manufacturer used the original 41-F Discovery patch, with a new tab sewn to the bottom. Because of all of these changes, 51-D was the last flight for quite some time that included the name of the

Mission patches

41E-F patch

Mission patches

51E Baudry patch

Mission patches

51E Baudry and Garn patch

Mission patches

51D Walker and Garn patch

shuttle, and all payload specialists tended to have their names on separate sewn on tabs.

On one occasion, the first shuttle flight to rendezvous with Mir, STS-63, caused some patch problems when one crewmember, Janice Voss, got divorced part-way through the approval cycle, the official patch originally said Ford, but was changed to Voss before any were produced.

The Soviet Union had also adopted the tradition of producing patches, but in a slightly different way to their American counterparts. In the Soviet system, cosmo­nauts have their own personal call sign, which they generally maintain during their entire career, the call sign of the commander of the flight is adopted as the main call sign for the mission. Therefore, patches have tended to be of a personal nature rather than a mission specific one. This has changed over the years, particularly when there is some special significance to the mission, for instance all of the Interkosmos inter­national flights had a mission patch usually including the flag of the nation involved. The first known use of a personal patch was that used by Valentina Tereshkova during her Vostok 6 mission in 1963, it consisted of a white dove, and the letters СССР. In fact, this was the first use of a mission patch by anyone, the U. S.A. not officially introducing them until Gemini 5 in 1965. Over the years, Soviet crews have worn a number of standard patches, many of them produced by Zvezda, who are the manufacturers of the crew’s spacesuits. The patches produced by Zvevda have displayed the company’s logo and the Russian word for Salyut, or Mir, and now

Mission patches

Vostok6—Tereshkova patch

ISS. Zvevda also produced the patch that was first worn by Alexei Leonov during his pioneering spacewalk, and later by the crew of Salyut 1. Since those early days, Soviet and Russian mission patches have been something of a mixture; many cosmonauts have carried their own personal patches, as well as patches that are specific to their mission. Many patch collectors have recently become dismayed at the sheer number of different patches that become available for just one mission. The more recent Soyuz taxi missions to the ISS have featured customized designs for each cosmonaut, often the same basic design, but with a different colour border for each crewmember.

Quite how patches will continue to evolve is unclear, Orion will carry crews of six at a time to the ISS, and the ISS standard crew complement is due to grow to six crewmembers at a time, it seems likely that mission specific or expedition patches may be on the decline, but astronaut/cosmonaut personal patches will increase. Time will tell.

Mission patches

Zarya after launch

Mission patches

Zarya and Unity after STS-88

Mission patches

Zarya, Unity, and Zvezda

Mission patches

ISS after STS-97 adds the first solar arrays

Mission patches

ISS after the Destiny lab and Quest airlock were installed

Mission patches

ISS after the STS-114 return to flight mission

Mission patches

ISS after STS-116 added more solar arrays

Mission patches

ISS after STS-117

Mission patches

Mission patches

Mission patches

Mission patches

Mission patches

ISS after Node 3 is attached

Mission patches

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.

SPACELAB

Having deciding to concentrate on the space shuttle program after the three visits to Skylab NASA lacked a space station of its own. However, in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), NASA developed the Spacelab. This made available a pick and mix of a pressurized module and open pallets that sat in the shuttle payload bay to allow scientific experiments for the duration of a shuttle mission. It was obviously nowhere near as good as the long-duration experiments that could be carried out aboard the Salyut stations, but it was the closest thing possible with the space shuttle. Critics pointed out that it was impossible to make the shuttle a com­pletely gravity-free environment, as the movements of the relatively large crew, plus thrusters firings, would interfere with the results of many experiments. The project began in 1973 when NASA and ESA signed an agreement that outlined the com­ponents and responsibilities of the Spacelab project. The first engineering model of a pallet arrived at NASA in 1980, and went on to be used on the shuttle’s second flight in 1981. Most Spacelab missions could only last up to 10 days, but NASA added the Extended Duration Orbiter (EDO) pallet to the shuttle and in 1992 STS-50, a Space – lab mission on Columbia, flew a 13-day mission. The longest shuttle mission, STS-80

SPACELAB

STS-9 crew

lasted for almost 18 days, and this represented the limit of the shuttle’s duration. In total twenty-four Spacelab missions would be flown on the shuttle, seventeen of them with the pressurized lab module, the first of which, STS-9, was launched on 28 November 1983 and lasted for 10 days.

Whilst not strictly speaking a space station component, Spacelab did shape the way NASA planned and undertook its science based missions. The crew’s schedule for these missions was extremely tight, with not a minute wasted; of course on a short mission with around the clock shifts of crew members it is acceptable and sensible to plan this way, but it would do nothing to help NASA plan for future space station operations, when it simply would not be possible to plan every last minute of the day.

The Soviets made maximum use of their new ferry craft capabilities on the 8 February 1984 with the launch of Soyuz-T 10. This time the crew numbered three due to the inclusion of a physician, Dr. Oleg Atkov, who would monitor the long – duration crew (EO-3) of Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov during their record attempt. Kizim and Solovyov had been trained for several EVAs to attempt to fix the leaking fuel tanks. Eventually they would carry out a record six spacewalks in their efforts to fix the leaks and add solar arrays to the station. Salyut 7’s future had been assured by the skillful efforts of the cosmonauts and wisdom of the planners on the ground. Two crews of visiting cosmonauts included the first Indian in space Rakesh Sharma, and the return of Svetlana Savitskaya who would make a spacewalk this

SPACELAB

Soyuz-T 13, Salyut 7 repair crew

time. Savitskaya was accompanied by Buran chief test pilot Igor Volk, who was using this flight to test a home coming Buran pilot’s ability to land his craft on a runway at the end of a long flight. Upon landing on 29 July, Volk immediately flew a MiG fighter to 21 km before landing with dead engines to simulate a Buran landing. The three-man EO-3 crew landed on the 2 October having set a new duration record of 237 days in space, which would be the longest single-crew stay aboard Salyut 7. Vladimir Dzhanibekov, who had commanded the Soyuz-T 12 mission with Savits­kaya and Volk, could not have had any idea that he would be returning to the station in less than a year, or why.

The year 1985 was to be a somewhat more complicated and dramatic year for Salyut 7 and its crews. It began when Mission Control lost all contact with the station on 11 February; it had lost all attitude control and had gone into free drift mode, making it impossible for a Soyuz ferry to automatically dock with the station. The crew of Soyuz-T 13 were dispatched on 6 June with Vladimir Dzhanibekov and Viktor Savinykh to try and determine what had gone wrong. When they rendez­voused, the station appeared to be undamaged, although it was clearly without power, there being no lights, and the solar arrays pointing in differing directions. The station was slowly rolling around its long axis, but Dzhanibekov was able to line up the Soyuz with the aid of docking controls that had been installed in the orbital module for just such a purpose. They managed to dock, and entered the dead station; it was dark and cold as it had been completely powered off. By the crews own crude estimate, the interior temperature was about — 10°C, an estimate reached by spitting on the bulkhead and timing how long it took to freeze! Clearly, they would have to wrap up to work in these conditions, and return intermittently to the Soyuz to warm up. To attempt to bring the station back to life, the crew fitted spare batteries, replacing the existing ones that would not charge back up. In the process of this work they discovered a faulty charge sensor. This sensor determined if a battery was full or in need of charging, and it had failed in such a way that the computer thought that all of the batteries were fully charged and stopped trying to charge them; as a result all of the batteries went flat, and the station died. If a crew had been on board, the faulty sensor would have been immediately detected, and replaced well before the station lost all power. Once this sensor was replaced, the task of recharging the batteries began, and the station slowly came back to life. The crew had saved the station, once again proving the value of humans in space, and proving that the Soviets were now very comfortable with repairing their spacecraft, rather than just launching new ones when something went wrong. A fact that they would be keen to underline when failures began to undermine the fledgling partnership with NASA.

Soyuz-T 14 arrived on 18 September with Georgi Grechko, Vladimir Vasyutin, and Aleksandr Volkov aboard. Vasyutin and Volkov had trained with Savinykh as the original long-duration (EO-4) crew, so when Soyuz-T 13 landed on 26 September it left behind the EO-4 crew to begin their mission. Unfortunately, during October Vasyutin became very ill; his temperature was very high (about 40°C), and the ground advised him to rest in the hope that the fever would pass. It did not get any better; in fact he seemed to get worse, and Valeriy Ryumin ordered an immediate end to the mission. In actual fact, it took the crew about a week to prepare the station for autonomous flight and return to Earth, by which time Vasyutin had become very ill indeed. Upon his return he was immediately taken to hospital, where he took a month to recover from what turned out to be a prostate infection. It was an unfortunate end to a promising long-duration mission by Savinykh, who was very disappointed to have missed the duration record. It was also unfortunate for the future of Salyut 7, which had clearly reached the end of its useful life. The rescue mission had also used a Soyuz that was to have been utilized by an all female crew commanded by Svetlana Savitskaya with two flight engineers Yekaterina Ivanova and Yelena Dobrokvashina. After the cancelation of their flight it was hoped that they might fly to Mir, but Savitskaya became pregnant in 1986, and the idea was abandoned. Ivanova and Dobrokvashina were never assigned to another mission, and both left the cosmonaut corps in 1993.

The EO-4 mission was to be the last planned long-duration flight to Salyut 7; its successor Mir had been launched on the 19 February 1986, and it seemed as if Salyut 7’s operational life was over. However, a unique mission was planned that would see the crew of Soyuz-T 15, Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov, activating the new Mir station, and then flying their Soyuz to dock with Salyut 7 to complete and collect the work not finished by the EO-4 crew. So on 5 May they undocked from Mir after six weeks aboard and transferred to Salyut 7 the next day. After 50 days aboard Salyut 7 they returned to Mir for a further 25 days before returning to Earth on the 16 July after a truly unique mission.

SPACELAB

Salyut 7 in orbit

Salyut 7 stayed in orbit until 7 February 1991 when it re-entered the atmosphere and was destroyed. The stage, however, had been set, for Mir was now operational and offered much more flexibility than the previous Salyut stations. The best was yet to come.

1928—THE NOORDUNG STATION—HERMANN NOORDUNG

In 1928, Hermann Potocnik Noordung published his first and only book Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums—der Raketen motor (literally translated as The problem of driving on space—the rocket engine). This book was primarily con­cerned with manned space stations, the first in history to do so. It contained a design for a wheel-shaped structure for living quarters, with a power-generating station attached to one end of the central hub, and an astronomical observation station at the other end. He was among the first to suggest a wheel-shaped design for a space station in order to produce artificial gravity, and he pointed out the scientific value of such a station in a synchronous orbit above the Earth. His ideas were to inspire Hermann Oberth, and later Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev.

Sadly, Noordung himself did not profit from his amazing foresight, he died at the

1928—THE NOORDUNG STATION—HERMANN NOORDUNG

Hermann Nordung, 1946

early age of 36 in great poverty, and his obituary in the local newspaper mentioned nothing of his spaceflight publication.

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.

Mir: For all mankind?

The very name Mir seems to conjure images of disaster, and words like beleaguered and trouble-torn were usually associated with it, for this was the only way that this outstanding space station was ever mentioned in the popular news programs and newspapers. This image was reinforced in popular culture by Mir’s depiction in movies such as “Armageddon”. The truth, of course, was somewhat different; the facts are simple, Mir was in orbit for 15 years, and played host to over 100 cosmo­nauts and astronauts. It is true that in later years it required more maintenance than in its earlier years, most things do, but its legacy will stand for many years to come. The incidents that led to Mir’s unfortunate reputation are described in Chapter 10.

The name Mir is variously translated, but can mean “peace’’, “community”, or “new world’’; but perhaps most significant was the fact that it had a name at all, as opposed to being referred to as “Salyut 8’’. However, it soon became clear that this station was meant to be a new beginning for Soviet space stations, with a long life planned for it. Mir would embody everything that had been learned previously, and hence with a new beginning came a new name. It did not hurt that the new name would strike a welcome cord with the new General Secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev.

Unusually, Mir was launched whilst its predecessor Salyut 7 was still in orbit, raising speculation that some kind of joint operations were intended, and maybe even a docking between the two. Its launch in February 1986, barely a month after the hammer blow of the Challenger launch disaster, highlighted the Soviet Union’s relentless presence in space, and seemed to press home, cruelly, its continued progress in long-term space flight.

Mir was different from the earlier Salyut stations in an important way. Its most important addition was the four docking ports arranged around the radial axis of the front end. These would allow the station to be expanded with science modules. This, in turn, meant that the core module or base block, as it was known, had more space; it was primarily a habitat module for the two or three permanent crew. The stations

Mir: For all mankind?

Soyuz-T 15 crew

solar panels were larger than those on Salyut 7, and more panels were to be fitted shortly by spacewalking cosmonauts. The computers on board Mir were sufficiently advanced as to allow the crew more time for scientific activities; in fact, the whole station’s design reflected the fact that this station was meant to last longer than any of its predecessors.

Mir was to be activated by the crew of Soyuz-T 15, who were launched just a month after Mir was established in orbit. Two experienced cosmonauts, commander Leonid Kizim and engineer Vladimir Solovyov, were selected to not only carry out the first mission on Mir, but also to visit Salyut 7 and finish the outstanding experi­ments on that station. Once they had rendezvoused and docked with Mir, the crew found a much roomier cabin than the previous Salyut stations, which both crew­members had spent considerable time aboard. Although the physical dimensions of Mir’s base block were about the same as previous stations, the interior was much less cluttered—a reflection of the plan to add modules later for scientific research. For the first time the crew had their own individual cabins, with sleeping bag, window, and storage for personal items. The bathroom offered some privacy, and a kind of wash basin, and the table at which the crew would eat was a great improvement over earlier facilities. In all, Mir was designed with long-duration space flight in mind, and offered a level of comfort not seen on a space station since Skylab. The lessons learnt from previous station operations was also evident in the plan for the working day; it would follow a more usual five days a week schedule—with a normal working day’s dura­tion and with time of in the evening for the crew to relax or pursue their own interests. The crews were also left free to determine their own schedules for the day; a marked difference from NASA’s “plan every minute’’ approach to space flight. The Russians

seemed to understand that long-duration missions were like running a marathon; the crew had to pace themselves to keep their efficiency levels up as well as their spirits.

Kizim and Solovyov spent the next several days preparing Mir for its mission; they unpacked an already docked Progress, and generally readied Mir for long-term space flight. One Progress left and another arrived to continue the process of activation, and to ensure that Mir’s propellant supplies were topped up. As the beginning of May approached, the crew put Mir back into an autonomous operating mode; they were leaving, but not for good, they were going to Salyut 7. Transfer between two orbiting space stations had never been achieved before, or since. On 5 May 1986 Soyuz-T 15 undocked from Mir to begin the one-day transfer to Salyut 7, docking with the veteran station was easily achieved, and in fact the whole process was made to look routine. The plan was to activate Salyut 7 once more, and finish off the remaining experiments on board the station. Toward the end of the month, the crew ventured outside Salyut 7 for the first of two spacewalks to retrieve a number of external experiments and to test the deployment mechanism for a structure that would eventually be built on Mir. By the end of June the crew was ready to return Salyut 7 to solo flight, and take as much equipment back to Mir as they could pack into the orbital module of their Soyuz; they had been on board Salyut 7 for 50 days. After a trouble-free return trip to Mir, the crew settled into a routine once more, concentrating on installing the equipment transferred from Salyut 7, and on their exercise regimes in preparation for the return to Earth. It had been assumed that the crew would hand over in orbit to the next, but apparently the next crew were not yet ready, and in truth Kizim and Solovyov had run out of things to do. On 16 July they landed after an historic and successful mission that had seen them occupy two space stations for a total of 125 days.

In fact it was some time before Mir was to be occupied again. The first expansion module for Mir, called Kvant, had suffered a few delays as it was modified from its original design as an adjunct to Salyut 7. There had also been delays with the crew, originally scheduled to consist of Vladimir Titov and Aleksandr Serebrov, when Serebrov failed a medical exam they had to be replaced by their back-ups Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveikin. Titov did not seem to be a lucky man; so far his career had consisted of a failed docking attempt with Salyut 7, and the launch pad abort, and, now he had been removed from a mission through no fault of his own. Many of his cosmonaut colleagues wondered if he was cursed.

When the crew did launch on 6 February 1987, it did so on board an upgraded Soyuz design with features specifically designed for the new orbital outpost. The Soyuz-TM was a necessary upgrade to the existing Soyuz-T craft because of the new rendezvous system used by Mir called Kurs. This new system basically allowed the Soyuz to dock automatically without Mir having to change its own orientation; a great saving of the limited maneuvring fuel available on the station. In addition a new window had been added to the orbital module to allow a crewmember to directly view the upcoming docking, and the interior of both modules had been slimmed down to save weight and give the crew more space.

Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveikin arrived at the station on 7 February 1987, docking with Mir’s front port because a Progress cargo craft was already at the

Mir: For all mankind?

Mir base block

rear port. It took some time for Laveikin to adapt to life in space; it was his first flight, and he said that it took the best part of a month to feel comfortable in orbit. Romanenko had no such difficulties, he had flown before, spending three months on Salyut 6, and adapted readily to the new station. Once the new crew had settled in they waited for the new module to be launched.

The first laboratory module, Kvant, was launched on 31 March 1987. As it had no propulsion system of its own, it was mated to a modified TKS serving as a tug. The tug was to deliver Kvant to its automatic docking with the rear port of Mir, its permanent home. Kvant made its first docking attempt on 5 April, but something went wrong and the module sailed past the station, with a somewhat concerned crew watching it pass Mir’s portholes. A second attempt a few days later achieved only a soft docking; when the docking probe was retracted the latches failed to lock. It was decided to get the crew to go outside and have a look. So on 11 April they ventured out and found a cloth bag full of hygiene towels that had somehow escaped from the previous Progress craft—it had blocked the hard docking, which was achieved successfully once this object was removed. The crew entered Kvant for the first time on 12 April for an initial inspection. The interior consisted mainly of equipment for an electrophoresis system for processing biological materials, and there was also substantial equipment for carrying out astrophysics observations. In addition to the experimentation equipment, there were additional devices to help with the opera­tion of the station in general. Elektron took water (whether reclaimed vapor, waste water, or urine) and electrolyzed it into oxygen and hydrogen—the oxygen for the life support system and the hydrogen vented into space. Another very important piece of operational equipment were the stations gyrodynes; these spinning flywheels were used to rotate the station as required, rather than using valuable propellant via the thrusters. The future expansion of Mir had originally been planned around the use of more Kvant sized modules, but at some point it had been decided to concentrate on modules more than twice the size at around 20 tonnes each, based on the TKS design.

1946—THE VON BRAUN STATION—WERNHER VON BRAUN

In a 1946 summary of his work during World War II, Wernher von Braun prophesied the construction of space stations in orbit. The design, which owed a great deal to the earlier work of Noordung, consisted of a toroidal station spun to provide artificial gravity. Von Braun elaborated on this initial design at the First Symposium on Space Flight on 12 October 1951 hosted by the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. The design was popularised in 1953 in a series in Colliers magazine, illustrated with a gorgeous painting by Chesley Bonestell.

1948—THE BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY STATION—H. E. ROSS

In a paper presented to the British Interplanetary Society (BIS), and reprinted in the Journal of the BIS in 1949, H. E. Ross described a manned satellite station in Earth orbit that would serve as an astronomical, zero-gravity, and vacuum research labora­tory, and also serve as a way-station for the exploration of the moon. His suggested design comprised a circular structure that housed the crew of the space laboratory

1946—THE VON BRAUN STATION—WERNHER VON BRAUN

The 1946 von Braun Station

(numbering 24 specialists and support personnel) as well as telescopes and research equipment. The station, he suggested, could be resupplied with oxygen and other life – support essentials by supply ships launched every three months.

1969—FIRST TEST LAUNCH OF N-l

In February 1969, the first test launch of the N-1 ended in disaster. The rocket was in trouble immediately after its lift-off: a fire had developed in its first stage that grew worse as the rocket ascended, and when the engine-monitoring system detected the fire 68 seconds into the flight, it unfortunately responded by shutting down the entire first stage, and the enormous vehicle crashed back to the ground. The N-1 program, which had been in trouble since its inception, had floundered. The Soviet hierarchy realized that any chance of beating the U. S.A. to the moon had crashed along with this first test flight.

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.

1954—EHRICKE FOUR-MAN ORBITAL STATION—KRAFFT EHRICKE

In “Analysis of Orbital Systems,” a paper read at the fifth congress of the International Astronautical Federation in Innsbruck, Austria, Krafft Ehricke described an orbital station. Arguing that a very large space station was neither necessary nor desirable, Ehricke postulated a four-man design that might serve a number of different purposes, depending upon its altitude and orbital inclination. He suggested that such a station might be used for a variety of scientific research, for orbital reconnaissance, as an observation platform, and as a launch site for more distant space ventures. Later in 1958 Ehricke outlined the design for this station and called it Outpost. It would consist of an empty Atlas rocket equipped only with a pair of two-man gliders to serve as lifeboats, and could be powered by a nuclear reactor. Three further launches by Atlas-Centaur boosters would carry all of the remaining

1954—EHRICKE FOUR-MAN ORBITAL STATION—KRAFFT EHRICKE

The 1948 BIS Station

equipment required by the station. The crews would also be launched by Atlas – Centaur. Future plans called for Outpost II and III, each of which would be bigger than the last, consisting of clustered Atlas boosters, with the whole station spinning to provide artificial gravity to the occupants in either end.