initiated the last NASA Mir residency by delivering Andy Thomas and
bringing David Wolf home. The crew, which included cosmonaut Salizhan
Sharipov helped strengthen NASA’s partnership with Russia in preparation
for the International Space Station (ISS).
The Space Shuttle Endeavour became the first Orbiter after Atlantis
to dock with Mir. This was Endeavour’s first flight since STS-77
in May 1996, after which it went to Palmdale, California, for new main
engines and an external airlock for future ISS duties. A few unexpected
delays occurred in the week before launch. The Russians wanted to wait
until some specific work would be finished onboard Mir, and NASA needed
to repair some of the Orbiter’s heat-shielding tiles.
Endeavour roared skyward in another spectacular nighttime liftoff
to Mir after a prospect of stormy weather. One of the few problems associated
with the launch was that the solid rocket boosters parachuted into rough
They could not be towed back to Cape Canaveral for three days, and
two of the four parachutes were lost because of the delayed recovery.
Repairing booster cracks and other damage would result in a cost of
at least $7 million. However, high in space, the STS-89 crew effected
a textbook rendezvous and docked with Mir over Russia at an altitude
of 244 nautical miles. A significant flight modification for STS-89
was the way Commander Terry Wilcutt approached Mir for docking. He brought
the Endeavour in nose-forward to try out techniques needed for
several ISS dockings.
The handover from David Wolf to Andy Thomas had only a few hitches.
Clearly delighted to see Endeavour, David Wolf waved from a Mir
window and did a slow somersault. Crewmembers aboard the Shuttle teased
him on the radio. Bonnie Dunbar said, "We’re just discussing the
fact that maybe Andy forgot his suitcases and we might have to take
him back." However, it wasn’t Thomas’ suitcases but his Sokol pressure
suit that caused the problem. The Russian custom-made suit would be
needed in the event of an emergency evacuation of Mir. When Thomas tried
on the suit in orbit, the torso was a little too short, making it difficult
to pull it over his shoulders. Thomas speculated he may have "grown"
a little, a common effect of microgravity. He tried on Wolf’s suit and
found that its sleeves were too long. Mir Commander Anatoly Solovyev
helped Thomas alter his suit by detaching some internal straps. Later,
Thomas said that it fit "like a glove." If necessary, he could
safely descend to Earth in the Soyuz.
Endeavour continued its career as a logistics workhorse when
7,400 pounds of gear were transferred between the two ships. In addition
to the transfer activities, the STS-89 mission carried the SPACEHAB
double module, which contained many scientific experiments.
STS-89, Payload Commander Bonnie Dunbar had developed a deep professional
and personal attachment to the Shuttle-Mir Program. This was her second
Mir mission. Involved since the program’s beginnings, Dunbar had trained
as backup to NASA-1 Mir Astronaut Norm Thagard. She then flew to Mir
on the STS-71 flight to pick up Thagard and drop off the Mir-19 crew
of Solovyev and Budarin. With STS-89, she met up with Solovyev again,
now a part of Mir-24. "When we opened the hatch," Dunbar related
later, "it was really fun to see Anatoly." Nearing the mission’s
end, she and her colleague had a little fun. According to Dunbar, "One
of the things we did—before we closed the hatch and left—was [that]
I went in on the other side of the hatch and they took a picture of
Anatoly and [me] inside the Mir…. When Mission Control in Moscow called
us after undocking, they asked me what side of the hatch I was on. I
told them [that], unfortunately, I was on the Shuttle side."
The conclusion of the STS-89 mission saw 13 people in three different
spacecraft in orbit. Endeavour pulled away from Mir soon after
a Soyuz had launched from Baikonur with two Russian cosmonauts and a
French researcher. Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin were on their
way to Mir with Leopold Eyharts. Eyharts conducted experiments onboard
Mir for three weeks before returning to Earth with David Wolf’s Mir-24
crewmates. Musabayev and Budarin remained on Mir with Andy Thomas.
more about the STS-89 mission and crew.
Chapter - NASA-7 Andy Thomas: Smoother Sailing!