| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

History's Highest Stage

Two hundred and more miles above Earth’s surface, at the top of a technological ladder humankind had climbed for millennia, the space station Mir set history’s highest stage for the world’s two most powerful nations.

As the 20th century was nearing its end, the United States and Russia were alike and unlike in many ways. They were alike in their mighty military powers and near equals in the importance of their previous explorations of space. And, for much of the century, they had been alike in the amount of influence that their opposing ideologies had held over "the hearts and minds"—and lives—of people all around the world. The United States had championed free markets, free speech, and free minds. The former Soviet Union had worked for planned economies and planned lives.

On the other hand, the two nations were dramatically unalike in the ways their fortunes had turned. The United States was embarking on a robust economic expansion, partly fueled by the freedom of information in a new, Internet world. One of its main exports, democracy, was ascendant in much of the world. In contrast, Russia was emerging from the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russians themselves were now attempting democracy, but their economy was in shambles and the future of their legendary space program looked worse than uncertain.

It was within this context that the United States and Russia shared the orbital stage of Mir. They wrote, rewrote, revised, and improvised their desired roles for the fast-approaching 21st century—as the leading actors in the exploration of space.

The Shuttle-Mir Program, also known as Phase 1 of the International Space Station Program, combined spacecraft and statecraft and mirrored the whole history of spaceflight. This joint effort provided the opportunity for Americans and Russians to share expertise and knowledge while residing in space as well as while working together on the Earth. But, the cooperation that was Shuttle-Mir grew out of a fierce ideological and technological competition between America and the old Soviet Union.

Although allied during World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union quickly became competitors in many arenas after 1945. Militarily, both began working on ways to deliver nuclear weapons to be used at great distances. The Americans preferred crewed bombers. The Soviets favored guided missiles and they quickly led the U.S. in rocket technology. Both nations based their early rocket designs on Nazi Germany’s V-2 missile, and both incorporated German rocket scientists into their programs. Both developed guided missiles; and, by 1955, the U.S. Air Force had successfully launched its first Atlas guided missile.

But, on October 4, 1957, a Soviet R-7 rocket launched the Sputnik-1 satellite into Earth orbit. This "October Surprise" shocked and frightened many Americans. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, the future U.S. President, was at his ranch in Texas on that day. He later wrote, "In the Open West you learn to live closely with the sky. It is part of your life. But now, somehow, in some new way, the sky seemed almost alien."

Less than a month after Sputnik-1, the Soviets launched Sputnik-2. This satellite carried the first Earth creature into orbit, a dog named Laika. The animal died during the mission, but Sputnik-2 demonstrated that the Soviets could launch large payloads and that they might soon put a human into space.

Americans also feared that the Soviets might be capable of mounting a surprise attack against the United States. Several U.S. rocket failures during this time increased apprehension. The Space Race had begun before the United States could even get into orbit. However, America finally succeeded when it launched its Explorer 1 satellite in January 1958. Later that year, in large part to counter the Soviet threat in space, the U.S. Congress established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and NASA began operating on October 1, 1958.

During the early years of the Space Race, success was defined by highly visible "firsts." Uncomfortable as it was for America, the Soviet Union achieved nearly all of these firsts. Presidential candidate John Kennedy wrote in 1960, "The first man-made satellite to orbit the Earth was named Sputnik. The first living creature in space was Laika. The first rocket to the Moon carried a Red flag. The first photograph of the far side of the [Moon] was made with a Soviet camera. If a man orbits Earth this year his name will be Ivan."

The man’s name, incidentally, was Yuri.

Yuri Gagarin’s one-orbit flight, on April 12, 1961, kicked the Space Race into high gear. Indeed, it turned the Space Race into a race to the Moon. On May 25, 1961—barely six weeks after Gagarin’s flight and only 20 days after American Alan Shepard’s 15-minute suborbital flight in a Mercury capsule—President Kennedy spoke to Congress on "Urgent National Needs." Along with other defense spending, Kennedy called for five Polaris nuclear submarines. Then he turned to the Space Race, saying, "[If] we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all … the impact of this adventure [is] on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take."

President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961Kennedy announced that the United States should "commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish." Kennedy added that, "in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the Moon … it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there." Thus, Project Apollo was born, and the American nation embraced it. NASA was handed its greatest mission, along with the money with which to accomplish it.

The Soviets never publicly stated their commitment to landing their own cosmonauts on the Moon, but they spent billions on their own lunar program. They built a lunar lander and the giant N-1 Moon rocket. Although the United States had to recover from its tragic Apollo capsule fire, which took the lives of three astronauts, the Soviet Union was unable to keep up with the pace and the successes of the Apollo program. When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon’s surface on July 20, 1969, Moscow sent Washington its congratulations.

America eventually landed six Apollo spacecraft on the Moon, with the last one launching on December 7, 1972. Perhaps understandably, after the Moon prize had been won, Americans’ interest in space exploration waned and Congress’ willingness to spend money on space diminished. Although some have criticized Project Apollo for being an exercise in political one-upmanship, Apollo’s engineering payoff was immense. Project Apollo and its precursor, Gemini, pioneered many technologies and techniques that would be crucial to the Shuttle-Mir Program. These included the rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, the docking and undocking of those two spacecraft, and the use of spacewalks to build and maintain structures in orbit.

While competition was the rule in the early years of space exploration, cooperation was always considered and, at times, attempted. In November 1959, NASA’s Deputy Administrator Hugh L. Dryden met privately with Soviet space scientists. They agreed that their countries should cooperate more closely in space science, and Dryden made it clear that NASA was ready to talk about issues of mutual interest. However, the Soviets were not prepared to proceed; and the Soviets’ downing of an American U-2 spyplane over the Ural Mountains damaged the case for cooperation. In September 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for making space a nonmilitarized zone, much as the Antarctic continent had been declared earlier. President Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address proclaimed, "Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars."

Soon after that, in his State of the Union speech, Kennedy invited the Soviet Union and all nations "to join with us in developing a weather prediction program, in a new communications satellite program and in preparation for probing the distant planets of Mars and Venus, probes which may someday unlock the deepest secrets of the universe." Later in 1961, at a Vienna summit meeting with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Kennedy suggested that America and the Soviet Union "go to the Moon together." Khrushchev determined that such cooperation would not be practical, because any rocket boosters used would have military uses.

The remainder of 1961 saw heightened Cold War tensions, including the Soviets’ building of the Berlin Wall. However, in spring 1962, following John Glenn’s three-orbit spaceflight in a Mercury capsule, it was Khrushchev who called for closer cooperation in space activities. Kennedy wrote him a letter recommending cooperation in weather satellites, tracking services, and other space matters. Khrushchev responded favorably, but stated that as long as the Cold War situation remained, cooperation in space would be limited.

The next year, the United States and the Soviet Union found more common ground in space. In December, after much work by NASA’s Dryden and Soviet Academician A. A. Blagonravov (and after being delayed by the Cuban missile crisis), the two countries signed a bilateral space agreement that increased cooperation in space. In 1963, President Mstislav Keldysh of the Soviet Academy of Sciences intimated to a British astronomer that the Soviets might have given up on their own manned lunar project. Partly in response to this, President Kennedy made a speech at the United Nations in which he raised the possibility of a "joint expedition to the Moon." Surprisingly, the Soviet government and media ignored the proposal.

In the United States, reaction was mixed. Congress tacked on to NASA’s appropriations bill the words, "No part of any appropriation made available to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by this Act shall be used for expenses of participating in a manned lunar landing to be carried out jointly by the United States and any other country without consent of the Congress." The same language was used in NASA’s funding bills for fiscal years 1964 to 1966. America would go to the Moon alone.

But, America would not have space to itself. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed on this by signing the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which proclaimed, "The exploration and use of outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind."

Bootprint in the lunar soil made by one of the Apollo 11 AstronautsWith the 1969 landing on the Moon of Apollo 11, there was not much left to compete for in space. Although cooperation remained tied to politics, the path toward Shuttle-Mir became easier.

That path actually began just before America landed on the Moon, in early July 1969. At that time, NASA astronaut Frank Borman, who had recently orbited the Moon with his Apollo 8 crewmates, James Lovell and William Anders, undertook a nine-day goodwill tour of Soviet space facilities as U.S. President Richard Nixon’s representative. Borman suggested to Soviet space leaders that Americans and Soviets might work together onboard a space laboratory in low Earth orbit. A few days after Apollo 11 returned to Earth, NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine wrote to Keldysh and suggested cooperative space ventures.

In March 1970, Nixon declared that international cooperation would be an object of America’s post-Apollo space program, saying, "I believe that both the adventures and the applications of space missions should be shared…. Our progress will be faster and our accomplishments will be greater if nations will join together in this effort." In September, NASA Administrator Paine wrote to his Soviet colleagues to propose that a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft dock with NASA’s planned Skylab orbital workshop.

In October 1970, at Keldysh’s invitation, five NASA representatives flew to Moscow for talks on providing compatibility to the rendezvous and docking systems of manned spacecraft and space stations. The Soviet delegation included among its members docking system engineer Vladimir Syromiatnikov, who ultimately worked on every Soviet/Russian docking system including the one for Shuttle-Mir. His U.S. counterpart, Caldwell Johnson, brought pictures of NASA’s "neuter" docking system. Working to ensure docking compatibility in future generations of spacecraft, these two delegations established three "joint working groups." The successful template of these working groups would continue through the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and into the Shuttle-Mir and the International Space Station Programs.

The Nixon Administration remained interested in space cooperation. In January 1971, a delegation led by NASA Acting Administrator George M. Low traveled to Moscow for wide-ranging discussions. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had instructed Low to explore the possibility of an early U.S.-Soviet docking mission. Upon his return, Low reported to President Nixon that "apart from our formal negotiations, I did have one private conversation with Keldysh (along lines discussed earlier with Dr. Kissinger) … I explained to Keldysh that we believe it technically possible to modify Apollo spacecraft and Soyuz modules so as to permit them to dock in the 1973-74 period, several years before entirely new systems like the Space Shuttle would become available."

Keldysh was warm to the idea. Nixon and Kissinger wanted an early international space mission as a high-flying demonstration of their policy of détente (easing of tensions) between the United States and the Soviet Union. From NASA’s point of view, an early international docking mission made programmatic sense. Nixon was scaling back and redirecting the Agency, and no space missions were planned between the last Skylab visit in 1974 and the planned first Space Shuttle test flight in 1978 (which actually occurred in 1981). An international docking mission would help fill the gap.

An international mission would also replace competition with cooperation while keeping politics—foreign relations—as an important reason to explore space. After Apollo, spacecraft would remain statecraft, but they would often be flying more than one nation’s flag.

Artisitic rendition of the "Apollo-Soyuz Linkup" by Robert McCall (1974)In 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project became the first international human spaceflight. It epitomized the Nixon-Ford Admininstrations’ emphasis on détente with Communist nations. It also had ambitious technological goals, especially the compatibility of the U.S. and Soviet rendezvous and docking systems.

On July 15, 1975, Soyuz-19 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the then-Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, carrying cosmonauts Aleksei A. Leonov and Valeri N. Kubasov. Less than eight hours later, a Saturn IB rocket carrying a modified Apollo capsule launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida—10,000 miles from Baikonur. Onboard the Apollo were astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, Vance D. Brand, and Donald K. "Deke" Slayton. At the Kennedy Space Center, the Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly F. Dobrynin, told the firing-room team, "The best of wishes to all of you, and, of course, to both our crews. My heart is with you." NASA Administrator James C. Fletcher announced, "You’re making history today. This is the first step on a long mission and a first step on a long program with the Soviet Union."

Once in orbit, the U.S. crew flipped around the cone-shaped Apollo capsule and mated it with a 10-foot-long docking module, which would later attach directly to the Soyuz.

On July 17, 1975, the two spacecraft rendezvoused over South America and docked over the Atlantic Ocean. Command Module Pilot Vance Brand later recalled that the docking occurred as if in slow motion. "We came together at a slow rate and we felt a little gentle bump when we docked," he said. "We looked through an optical sight to line it up. There was some relative movement between the spacecraft and then it quickly stopped."

After three hours of tests and preparation, the hatches were opened and spacecraft commanders Stafford and Leonov performed the ceremonial handshake that would be repeated many times during the Shuttle-Mir Program. "Glad to see you," Stafford said in Russian to Leonov. "Very, very happy to see you," Leonov replied in English.

On Earth, U.S. President Gerald Ford and Soviet Communist Party General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev expressed congratulations, and the two crews exchanged flags and other commemorative items. Over the next three days, the crews performed joint activities, such as sharing meals, carrying out scientific experiments, and giving television viewers tours of the joined spacecraft. On July 18, they closed the hatches; and the next day, the Apollo and Soyuz undocked.

Brand said, "It was a positive experience from beginning to end. It was the middle of the Cold War, and [the Soviets] probably saw us as monsters and vice versa before we started training. We opened a crack in the door regarding communication between the two superpowers. Apollo-Soyuz was the first for this kind of cooperation."

Apollo-Soyuz proved to be enormously successful, both symbolically—in those very tense times—and technically for the future. Figuratively, where Apollo-Soyuz could be seen as an introductory handshake, Shuttle-Mir would become a confirming embrace, albeit two decades later.

Looking back on his Apollo-Soyuz experience, Stafford said that, although some Americans were worried about technology transfer to the Soviets, the United States may have learned more than the Soviets did. "Russia was such a closed society. The amount of wheat they produced in a year was a state secret…. We saw the control center and the launch site," although Stafford had to in his words, "pry it open." But, according to Stafford, "we learned more about where they were than they learned about where we were." In Stafford’s opinion, "What they could have learned from us was management," because their management structures were so "vertically separated."

After Apollo-Soyuz, NASA officials began seriously discussing the possibility of the Space Shuttle docking with the Soviets’ Salyut space station. Much thought was also given to what was called "air-to-air extravehicular activity capability;" that is, transferring astronauts between the vehicles using spacesuits instead of directly docking the two spacecraft. In August 1976, NASA’s Glynn S. Lunney, who had managed the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, suggested flying a cosmonaut onboard a Shuttle. In late 1976, NASA and Soviet officials agreed to a Shuttle-Soyuz docking, but nothing was signed because of the upcoming U.S. presidential elections. In May 1977, both sides agreed to renew the 1972 Space Cooperation Agreement for a second five years. The Agreement called for the study of a Space Shuttle docking with a Salyut space station in 1981 and for setting up two working groups, one for science and one for operations.

However, the new U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his administration were also worried about technology transferring to the Soviets and, by late 1978, had discontinued all docking discussions. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, any chance for a Shuttle-Salyut docking collapsed as the U.S. administration did what it could to isolate the Soviet regime internationally, including boycotting the 1980 Olympics.

Throughout the 1980s, events served to buoy and then batter the prospects of U.S.-Soviet space cooperation. For the first time after Apollo-Soyuz, America returned to human spaceflight on April 12, 1981, when NASA astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen launched aboard the first Space Shuttle, Columbia. In December, Polish government authorities cracked down on the democratic Solidarity movement. In the spring of 1982, President Ronald Reagan allowed the Space Cooperation Agreement to expire; and in January 1984 in his State of the Union speech, Reagan called on NASA to build its own space station.

He echoed President Kennedy’s "Urgent National Needs" Moon speech by saying he wanted the station built within a decade.

However, in June 1984, Reagan proposed "a joint simulated space rescue mission" with the Soviets, and Congress and the media renewed attention to space cooperation. Regardless, the Soviets did not respond. Then, in March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in Moscow. There began a great period of uncertainty and reform, which would lead ultimately to the collapse of the Soviet government.

Tragedy struck the U.S. space program again in January 1986 with the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger and the deaths of its crew of seven. The accident left the American public shocked and unsure about the future of human spaceflight. NASA’s Shuttle fleet would remain grounded for the next two years. Meanwhile, the Base Block of the Soviets’ new space station Mir was being built.

In 1986, the first Mir crew activated the new space station. They then transferred via a Soyuz capsule to the Salyut-7 station to collect equipment, and returned to Mir before returning to Earth. Two years later, in 1988, the Space Shuttle returned to flight with the launch of STS-26, Discovery. The Soviets tried out their own Space Shuttle in November 1988, when they launched the Buran orbiter. Buran flew successfully—without a crew. However, it soon was scrapped, partly for economic reasons, and the Soviets still had no reusable spacecraft with which to ferry crews and resupply Mir.

The 1990s loomed full of uncertainty, but this would be the decade that brought the two space powers together.

In April 1989, President George H. W. Bush had reestablished, by executive order, the National Space Council, led by Vice President Dan Quayle. Part of its job was to find a direction for America’s space initiatives in a time when the nation would no longer be engaged in a technology race with the Soviet Union. NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin worked closely with Vice President Quayle and important Space Council members, including Executive Secretary Mark Albrecht, Apollo-Soyuz Commander General Thomas Stafford, and the Council’s Senior Director for Civil Space Policy, George W. S. Abbey. The Council began to see several unique opportunities for engaging the former Soviet Union in a space station program.

The Space Council saw a space station as a logical next step—back to the Moon and on to Mars. They were interested in reducing the cost of the space station. They also wanted to take advantage of the enormous space assets that the Soviets fielded; for example, their unique heavy-lift boosters and the trustworthy Soyuz crew return vehicle. The Soviets also had an existing space station in their Mir, onboard which American astronauts might gain valuable experience in long-duration spaceflight even before an American station was launched.

Moreover, several on the Space Council, as well as others in the Bush Administration, saw another reason to engage the post-Soviets in a cooperative space venture: as a way to help hold the Russian nation together at a time when the Russian economy was faltering and its society was reeling. In the words of Brian Dailey, Albrecht's sucessor, "If we did not do something in this time of social chaos … in Russia, … then there would be potentially a hemorrhaging of technology … ‘away from Russia’ … to countries who may not have a more peaceful intention behind the use of those technologies."

Bringing Russia into America’s future space plans would help get America to Mars and preserve what President Bush was calling "a new world order." George Abbey, with the help of Dailey and others, began working on a plan that would partner the American Space Shuttle with the Russian Mir program.

Events moved quickly. In May 1990, U.S. Vice President Quayle discussed space cooperation with Soviet President Gorbachev. In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. In June 1992, the U.S. and the new Russian Federation issued a "Joint Statement on Cooperation in Space." It called for Russian cosmonauts aboard Space Shuttles, U.S. astronauts onboard Mir, and a Shuttle-Mir docking mission in 1994 or 1995. The agreement also opened the door to U.S. commercial purchases of Russian space services.

In July 1992, at Quayle’s urging and Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s concurrence, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin met with the Russian Space Agency’s General Director Yuri Koptev in Russia to visit Russian space facilities and to work toward implementation of a new space agreement. Tom Stafford accompanied Goldin as his advisor. In August, NASA’s Bryan O’Connor met in Moscow with the Russian Space Agency’s Boris Ostroumov and with Valery Ryumin of RSC-Energia to discuss implementation of the cooperative human spaceflight programs. In October, Goldin and Koptev met again in Moscow to sign the "Implementing Agreement on Human Space Flight Cooperation." This detailed plan included a cosmonaut flight on Shuttle mission STS-60, an astronaut’s Soyuz flight and long-duration stay onboard Mir, and a Shuttle-Mir docking that would include a Russian Mir crew exchange and the pick up of the U.S. long-duration astronaut.

In September 1992, Johnson Space Center (JSC) Director Aaron Cohen established a U.S.-Russian Programs Office to accommodate the evolving relationship between NASA and the Russian space community. Donald Puddy became Special Assistant for U.S.-Russian Programs, responsible for coordinating "all JSC activities that support joint U.S. and Russian Federation programs."

It was at this point that what would become the Shuttle-Mir Program got rolling, in all practicality, with the inclusion of a Russian cosmonaut in the STS-60 Space Shuttle crew. Shuttle training for the cosmonaut had to begin immediately. The Russians selected Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who would become the "prime," and Vladimir Titov, who would be backup and who would later fly in 1995 onboard STS-63. According to Tommy E. Capps, who was responsible for spaceflight training, "We had from November [1992] to February [1993] to get them up to speed on the Shuttle." This meant, "Basic training for Shuttle. Understanding what Shuttle was. Understanding a little bit about their roles and responsibilities. So, it was a very difficult job for all of us. We had a lot of initial contacts with the Russians on training plans, trying to learn to communicate with each other, even though through an interpreter it was [still] a different language [even] after we communicated."

Tommy Capps and others at Johnson Space Center worried how these two non-English speakers would adjust to American society. Capps later said, "We started trying to do things like take them out for driving lessons. We were really apprehensive about them driving in Houston, in all of our aggressive freeway traffic and so forth." But, a few months later, Capps visited Russia. He later said, "After a few hours in Moscow, I realized that we were totally silly for wasting our time trying to teach these guys how to drive in Texas. If they could survive Moscow traffic, then they had no problem whatsoever driving." Capps didn’t mention that Krikalev was a champion Russian aerobatics pilot.

In April 1993, newly elected U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin met at a summit in Vancouver, Canada, where both sides agreed to an "enhanced" Shuttle-Mir Program. Late in May, NASA and Russian representatives met to consider such an expansion. Among other subjects, they agreed to consider two 3-month and four 6-month U.S. flights aboard Mir through 1997, with astronauts delivered to the station by Russian Soyuz-TMs and U.S. Space Shuttles; using the new Russian Mir modules, Spektr and Priroda, for U.S. equipment; and using joint spacewalks to extend Mir’s useful lifetime through the end of 1997.

In September 1993, U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin chaired the first meeting of the first U.S.-Russian Joint Commission on Energy and Space (Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission). The United States and Russia agreed to begin "Phase 1" of International Space Station cooperation immediately with Shuttle-Mir expanded to include up to two years of total U.S. time on Mir.

On November 1, 1993, the "Addendum to the Program Implementation Plan" merged the previously planned U.S. space station Alpha with Russia’s planned Mir-2, firmly establishing the International Space Station and its three "phases." Phase 1 would be the Shuttle-Mir Program. Phase 2 would be the construction of the International Space Station. Phase 3 would be the station’s full operation.

In December 1993, the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission formally agreed to expand Shuttle-Mir to include up to 10 Shuttle flights to Mir and four or more long-duration stays for a total of 24 months by U.S. astronauts on Mir. On December 16, 1993, NASA’s Daniel Goldin and the Russian Space Agency’s Yuri Koptev signed the "Contract for Human Space Flight Activities," and the Shuttle-Mir Program was ready to do real space business.

During the formative days of the Shuttle-Mir Program, NASA Associate Administrator Mike Mott played an important role in defining what the overall program would be like. Associate Administrator Arnauld Nicogossian represented the interests of science. Besides the earlier-mentioned Dan Goldin, George Abbey, Mark Albrecht, Brian Dailey, and Bryan O’Connor, key NASA negotiators and players at this time included Guy Gardner, the Deputy Associate Administrator for Russia, as well as new Johnson Space Center Director Carolyn Huntoon and technical negotiator James Nise, who would later take charge of contracts for the Shuttle-Mir Program. William Shepherd, Robert Clark, and Lee Evey also contributed greatly. Russian negotiators included the Russian Space Agency Chief Yuri Koptev, Cosmonaut and Shuttle-Mir Project Manager Valery Ryumin, and Technical Director Boris Ostroumov.

About negotiating with the Russians, James Nise later said, "The Russians don’t delegate much stuff ‘downhill’; that is, to lower than top-level managers. All the power [resided] in one person at the time. Now, they will work stuff ‘down below,’ but it all gets signed at the very top. So, it’s kind of difficult in that regard."

Of course, much was difficult in many regards; but on February 3, 1994, NASA announced that astronauts Norman Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar would train for missions on Mir. On the same day, Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-60) launched with cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev onboard.

The U.S. and Russia, the world’s leading actors in the drama of space, stepped onto the highest stage together again.

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| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Shuttle-Mir Goals

Goal 1 Learn How to Work With International Partners

International cooperation is both a challenge and a benefit of shared space ventures. Working with Russia in the Shuttle-Mir Program provided the U.S. with experience for the International Space Station, with its 16 participating nations. In Shuttle-Mir, astronauts and cosmonauts trained in each other’s languages and took part in each other’s operations. NASA and the Russian Space Agency put together a truly "joint program." NASA’s Program Director Frank Culbertson said, "It was important that people realize we were not only teaching each other, but observing each other and learning from each other, and that both sides had a lot to offer.

It wasn’t just a one-way street by any means, and I think we’ve proven that over and over."

Goal 2 Reduce Risks of Developing and Assembling a Space Station

The International Space Station is a much larger, more complex program than was Shuttle-Mir. Lessons learned during Shuttle-Mir helped reduce risks. The Russian-built, American-integrated docking system made dockings simpler and safer. The astronaut experiences aboard Mir led to many modifications, including single-command shutdown of ventilation systems to prevent the spread of fire, quick-disconnect cables in case of depressurization, and additional lighting for the International Space Station to help navigation during rendezvous. "We were always looking for ways," Culbertson said, "to try out hardware that was going to be used on the station; [to] develop procedures that were going to be used; to react to the situations that arose; and [to] develop processes to respond to them." Sometimes, he said, "we got more than we bargained for." Regardless, Shuttle-Mir "certainly taught us a lot about what could happen during the International Space Station."

Goal 3 Gain Experience for NASA on Long-Duration Missions

Before the Shuttle-Mir Program, NASA’s longest-duration experiences had been the Skylab missions of 1973-74. Space Shuttle flights are limited to about two weeks. Shuttle-Mir enabled U.S. astronauts to spend 975 days—more than 27 consecutive months—on a space station. That was more time in orbit than had been accumulated since the Shuttle Program began in 1981.

Goal 4 Conduct Life Science, Microgravity, and Environmental Research Programs

Science conducted by astronauts aboard Mir included over 100 investigations in eight disciplines, including Advanced Technologies, Earth Sciences, Fundamental Biology, Human Life Sciences, International Space Station Risk Mitigation, Life Support Risk Mitigation, Microgravity, and Space Sciences. According to Culbertson, it is important to remember "that anytime we have the opportunity to conduct research on any platform—whether it’s at sea, in Antarctica, in space—we do it."


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Profile: Valery Ryumin

Russian Shuttle-Mir Manager Valery Ryumin knew space and spacecraft, and he had a personal knowledge of life in cramped quarters—both in space and on Earth. He once served as a tank commander in the Soviet Army and he set space endurance records onboard one of Mir’s predecessors, the Salyut-6 space station.

Born in 1939 in the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amur in the Russian Far East, Ryumin graduated in 1958 from the Kaliningrad Mechanical Engineering Technical College with the specialty "Cold Working of Metal." After time in the Army, he moved on to electronics and in 1966 graduated from the Department of Electronics and Computing Technology of the Moscow Forestry Engineering Institute with the specialty "Spacecraft Control Systems." He worked in the positions of Ground Electrical Test Engineer, Deputy Lead Designer for Orbital Stations, and Deputy General Designer for Testing. He also helped develop and prepare all Soviet orbital stations, beginning with Salyut-1.

In 1973, he joined the cosmonaut corps and logged a total of 362 days in space, spending two days in 1977 onboard Soyuz-25, 175 days in 1979 onboard Soyuz vehicles and the Salyut-6 space station, and 185 days in 1980 onboard Soyuz vehicles and Salyut-6. From 1981 to 1989, Ryumin served as Flight Director for Salyut-7 and the new Mir Space Station. In 1992, he became Manager of the Russian portion of the Shuttle-Mir Program. In 1998, he became the ninth and final cosmonaut of Shuttle-Mir, flying onboard STS-91, the last Shuttle flight to Mir.

Twice honored as a "Hero of the Soviet Union," Valery Ryumin is a complex and outspoken man who had to lose weight and improve his English in preparation to fly as a Shuttle crewmember. Commander Charlie Precourt said Ryumin had such a firm grounding in space systems that he learned the Shuttle’s systems quickly. And, 18 years after his last space mission, Ryumin was able to visit the space station he had been working so hard to make a success.

Read Valery Ryumin's Oral History

Read Valery Ryumin's NASA Biography


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Profile: Frank Culbertson

Astronaut Frank Culbertson served as NASA’s Shuttle-Mir Program Manager, leading the program from offices at the Johnson Space Center. He was responsible for the Program’s overall management as well as for executing many crucial decisions, such as the one to continue the Program after a fire onboard Mir. Culbertson often represented Phase 1 to Congress and to the media and public, and he led many negotiations with the Russians. Culbertson also served as Technical Director for the Program’s Management Working Group with his Russian counterpart, Valery Ryumin.

During Shuttle-Mir, Culbertson functioned under a tremendous workload, but he recognized his teammates were similarly burdened. NASA psychiatrist Chris Flynn, who worked in Russia as a Flight Surgeon during Shuttle-Mir, talked about Culbertson’s awareness of human stress factors.

Flynn said, "One of the things that I appreciated Frank Culbertson for … is that maybe more than any other manager that I’ve met at NASA, he appreciates that it’s not just wiring. It’s not just fuses that have limits. It’s not just metal [with] a limit of how much it can be stressed. But, … human beings have limits, [too]. And, that … gets lost without people like Frank Culbertson."

Before the Shuttle-Mir Program, Culbertson piloted Space Shuttle mission STS-38 and commanded STS-51, logging over 344 hours in space. He became an astronaut in 1985, after earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and serving as an aviator in the United States Navy.

After Shuttle-Mir, Culbertson served as the International Space Station’s Manager for Operations until he was selected to command Expedition 3 to the International Space Station. Selected as his two Russian crewmates were Flight Engineer Cosmonaut Mikhail Turin and Soyuz Vehicle Commander Vladimir Dezhurov, who was a commander on the Russian space station during the Shuttle-Mir Program.

Read Frank Culbertson's NASA Biography

Read Frank Culbertson's Oral History


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Lifting of Secrecy

Joe Engle, U.S. Air Force General (Ret.) and former Shuttle Commander, assisted former Apollo-Soyuz astronaut General Thomas Stafford in establishing U.S.-Russian cooperation for the Shuttle-Mir Program. Later, Engle related what he called "a humorous incident," which revealed how much U.S.-Russian relations had changed since the first joint operation of the two nations. According to Engle, he and Stafford were in Russia, talking with Academician Vladimir Utkin. The plan was for them to leave from Utkin’s office and go to the Russian Mission Control Center to watch a docking of a Progress supply vehicle with Mir.

Two decades earlier, during the Apollo-Soyuz era, Stafford had been to both Utkin’s office and to Mission Control. "But at that time," said Engle, "it was a wholly different atmosphere between the two countries, and a very, very deep communist, Soviet-controlled space program. Everything was very secretive."

During the Shuttle-Mir meeting, Stafford started "looking at his watch and fidgeting," according to Engle. Then, Stafford "leaned over to me and said, ‘We're not going to see this docking. We're not going to get there in time.’ And Academician Utkin kept on serving us tea and . . . being very polite, very cordial.

"Tom [Stafford] - you could tell - was kind of irritated, because although he knew what his duty was . . ." to talk to Utkin ". . .he also wanted to see this docking.

"Finally," Engle said, "Academician Utkin looked at his watch," and said that perhaps they should start towards the Mission Control Center to observe the docking.

"So, we walked out of Utkin's office and turned left and walked down this hallway," while Stafford "was mumbling and grumbling." And, then, Utkin opened a door at the end of hallway and, as Engle put it, "Here was Mission Control."

During the Apollo-Soyuz meetings, the Soviets had driven Stafford around in a car for three hours, so he wouldn’t have any idea of Mission Control’s whereabouts.


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Russian Space Agency and Energia

Russian Space Agency and Energia

The Russian Space Agency, formed after the breakup of the Soviet Union, took over the technology and launch sites of the former Soviet space program. As of mid-1999, the Russian Space Agency had centralized control of Russia's civilian space efforts, whose highest profile programs included the space station Mir and the International Space Station.

During Shuttle-Mir, Yuri Koptev headed the Agency. His duties roughly paralleled those of NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. The Russian Space Agency then employed about 300 people, with much of the work being designated to contractors. These included the prime contractor Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia), which owned and operated the Mission Control Center in Kaliningrad, near Moscow, and managed the Mir space station. The Russian Space Agency’s military counterpart, the Military Space Forces, controlled Russia's Plesetsk Cosmodrome launch facility. The Russian Space Agency and the Military Space Forces share control of the Baikonur Cosmodrome and the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.

Rocket and Space Corporation Energia

Rocket and Space Corporation Energia (RSC Energia), formerly known as NPO Energia, is Russia’s oldest space organization. Established in 1946, the company set the foundation for many areas of rocket and space technology. This pioneer of the industry continues its involvement today serving as a prime contractor for manned space stations, manned spacecraft and space systems.

RSC Energia manufactures the Soyuz-TM manned spacecraft and Progress-M automated cargo spacecraft. The company manufactures the block DM upperstage for the Proton booster and new Sea Launch/Zenit-3 program.

RSC Energia operated the Mir Space Station and maintains other support facilities for the Russian Space Agency. The company is also the prime contractor for the Russian segment of the International Space Station.

Dr. Yuri P. Semenov serves as general designer and president of RSC Energia. He joined RSC Energia in 1959, at the dawn of the space age. He was appointed General Designer of NPO Energia in 1989, and today serves as the first president of the privatized RSC Energia. Dr. Semenov was chief engineer for a wide range of space programs, from the Salyut to the Mir space station, from the Energia-Buran to the Sea Launch program.


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

NASA and Human Spaceflight

NASA’s efforts in human spaceflight are now almost entirely linked to international cooperation, but the American space agency was a child of the great Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

One year after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik-1 and a "technology gap" crisis had gripped the United States, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was created on October 1, 1958. Its mission: "to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes." Those "other purposes" mentioned in NASA’s founding legislation may have included besting the Soviets in every arena, including space.

During the half-century between World War II and the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. and the Soviets competed mightily—in technology, sports, the arts, and many other areas. Almost the entire world stood on a virtual wartime footing with both sides building larger and larger nuclear arsenals. Each side also tried to win "the hearts and minds" of people the world over, and to get them to embrace its system of government. Space offered a very dramatic way to show superiority. With the Apollo landing on the Moon in 1969, the U.S. won the so-called "Space Race." Afterwards, NASA human spaceflight program focused mainly on its Space Shuttle to provide versatility in access to space. The Soviets concentrated on their long-duration space stations.

Regardless of the initial impetus behind NASA’s human spaceflight efforts, the return in knowledge and increase in technology gained from them is immense. After Project Mercury (flights 1961-63) showed that humans could survive in space, NASA conducted Project Gemini (flights 1965-66) to practice rendezvous, docking, and spacewalks. It then used those experiences in Project Apollo (flights 1968-72) to explore the Moon with six successful crewed lunar landings. In the Skylab program (1973), three crews of three men each spent up to 84 days in space, giving the nation its first experiences in long-duration operations. In 1975, NASA cooperated with the Soviet Union to achieve the first international human spaceflight, with the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, successfully testing joint rendezvous and docking procedures.

NASA did not launch its next crewed mission until the launch of the first Space Shuttle in 1981. On January 28, 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch, killing all seven crewmembers. The Shuttle Program was grounded for more than two years, while NASA worked to increase safety. From 1994 to 1998, the Shuttle-Mir Program made the United States and Russia true space partners. Beginning in 1998, the U.S. and Russia began launching the first components of the 16-nation International Space Station.

Read about Human Spaceflight Record of Achievement


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Working Groups






WG 0



Provides technical direction of activities; coordination of activities and working groups; technical coordination of Russian Space Agency and NASA activities

WG 0 (sub)

Management Subgroup

Establishes standards and controls for documents and communications

WG 0 (sub)

Flight and Cargo Schedules Sub-Working Group

Provides joint manifesting, flight scheduling, and content definition of joint cargoes launched by Russia and NASA

WG 1

Public Relations
NASA's Public Affairs Office

Defines and coordinates all public relations activity, including measures taken during time of flight

WG 2

Safety Assurance

Evaluates safety requirements

WG 3

Flight Operations and Systems Integration

Develops flight programs, crew work schedules, and control, communications, and systems integration requirements

WG 4

Mission Science

Develops scientific programs and experiments, and requirements for scientific equipment

WG 5

Crew Training and Exchange

Develops requirements for crew functions, programs, schedules, and training

WG 6

Mir Operations and Integration

Coordinates hardware integration and operations activities of NASA hardware on Russian vehicles

WG 7

Extravehicular Activity

Defines extravehicular activity requirements and the hardware required to support these activities

WG 8

Medical Operations

Defines requirements for health care systems in support of astronauts and cosmonauts involved in cooperative missions

WG 9

Institutional Communications



| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Before Mir: Early Soviet Space Stations

"The Earth is the cradle of mankind -- but one cannot eternally live in a cradle."

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

Beyond the Planet Earth

Orbiting space stations were described a century ago by a deaf Russian schoolteacher and rocket enthusiast named Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935). His "Exploration of Cosmic Space by Means of Reaction Devices" (1896) and "Beyond the Planet Earth" (1903) accurately foresaw many aspects of spaceflight at a time when the Wright Brothers were just getting their flyer into the air at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Now revered as "the father of cosmonautics," Tsiolkovsky is as important to the history of spaceflight as is American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard (1882-1945). Tsiolkovsky inspired a generation of Soviet engineers, who began work on large rockets in the 1930s. By 1962, a year after Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, Soviet engineers were already designing a space station composed of modules, which would be launched separately, requiring smaller boosters. After the Americans beat them to the Moon in 1969, the Soviets put more effort into establishing a permanent presence in space.

First-Generation Soviet Space Stations

In 1971, the Soviets launched Salyut 1, the world’s first space station, on top of a Proton rocket. The first-generation stations had two basic classifications: Salyut for mainly civilian use and Almaz for the military. Their design used a single module and one docking port. Launched uncrewed and later occupied, they could not be resupplied or refueled.

Failure stalked the early Soviet stations. The first crew sent to Salyut 1 could not dock properly. Another crew perished during its return to Earth because the air escaped from their Soyuz spacecraft. Several other stations failed to reach orbit or failed before crews could reach them.

Undaunted, the Soviet space program recovered, and Salyuts 3, 4, and 5 supported a total of five crews. The cosmonauts performed military surveillance and scientific and industrial experiments, and conducted engineering tests to help develop the second-generation space stations.

First-Generation Soviet Space Stations (1964-1977)

Salyut 1 civilian 1971 First space station

Unnamed civilian 1972 Launch Failure

Salyut 2 military 1973 First Almaz station; failure

Cosmos 557 civilian 1973 Failure

Salyut 3 military 1974-75 Almaz station

Salyut 4 civilian 1974-77

Salyut 5 military 1976-77 Last Almaz station

Second-Generation Stations

Salyut 6 civilian 1977-82

Salyut 7 civilian 1982-91 Last crewed in 1986

Second-Generation Soviet Space Stations

The era of long-duration spaceflight began with the second-generation Salyuts, which also launched uncrewed and had their crews arrive later in Soyuz spacecraft. These new stations had two docking ports—one on each end. The two ports allowed resupply and refueling by automated, uncrewed Progress freighters, which had evolved from the Soyuz design.

Progress docked automatically and refueled the space station under the ground’s supervision. The Salyut crew then unloaded Progress and began filling it back up with trash and waste. When ready, Progress was undocked to deorbit and burn up in the atmosphere. This procedure continued throughout the Mir program and is expected to be used with the International Space Station.

On top of the advantages of periodic resupply, the two docking ports added an improvement that was almost a luxury. The available extra docking port allowed other cosmonaut crews to visit the resident crews and relieve their stress and monotony. Further, the visiting crew could exchange their fresh Soyuz spacecraft for the one already docked to counteract the Soyuz’ limited lifetime in orbit.

The Salyuts 6 and 7 were workhorses—as well as work houses—for the Soviet space program. Salyut 6 received 16 cosmonaut crews, including five long-duration crews, one of which logged 185 days in orbit. "Fly Your Allies!" could have been a slogan for the Soviets during this period, as Salyut 6 hosted guest cosmonauts from Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Cuba, Mongolia, Vietnam, and East Germany. Salyut 7 supported 10 cosmonaut crews, the longest for 237 days. Cosmonauts from non-communist countries—France and India—also worked aboard Salyut 7.

Several larger, automated transport vehicles called Cosmos also docked with the Salyuts, demonstrating that space station modules could be delivered and assembled in orbit.

Salyut 7’s last crew left it in 1986, and the craft reentered Earth’s atmosphere in 1991.

See diagrams of the Salyut

Read about Early Space Station Activities - 1923 - 1965


| History's Highest Stage | Shuttle-Mir Goals | Ryumin | Culbertson |
| Lifting of Secrecy | RSA & Energia | NASA and Human Spaceflight | Working Groups |
| Before Mir | Skylab |

Skylab: America's First Space Station

Skylab flies over the Amazon River delta during Skylab 3 missionAmericans’ interest in space stations goes back even further than that of the Russians. Four decades before Tsiolvsky’s scientific speculations, an American writer named Edward Everett Hale published a fanciful tale titled The Brick Moon. Hale understood some aspects of orbits and microgravity, but he missed the mark amusingly on others. For example, Hale’s huge brick space station had to roll down a contraption much like a ski jump until it gained enough velocity to launch into orbit. Regardless, Hale foresaw many challenges that present-day engineers face, such as redesign, cost overruns, and growing food in orbit.

Space station designs became more serious after World War II, when former German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun began building rockets for the U.S. Army. Von Braun favored a large wheel-shaped space station, whose most vivid illustration would appear in the 1968 science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. A revolving wheel-shaped station could simulate slight gravitational forces, counteracting some of the disadvantages of microgravity.

After the Soviets’ 1957 Sputnik triggered the space race, a NASA committee recommended a space station as the next step after Project Mercury. However, President John F. Kennedy determined that the eight-year deadline for landing a man on the Moon made an earlier orbiting outpost impossible.

But NASA continued its space station studies, and private industry sometimes pushed for a project. A 1962 Popular Science magazine article described Goodyear Aircraft Corporation’s "strangest dwelling ever built, a gigantic inflated doughnut of rubberized fabric." While both NASA’s and the Soviet space station plans would move away from circular stations, the practical idea of an inflatable space station living quarters was resurrected in the late 1990s, as TransHab.

In 1964, with America’s Moon quest at full speed, NASA began to consider a post-Apollo space station, using the Saturn booster and a converted upper stage. This would become Skylab. Wernher von Braun, now first director of the Marshall Space Flight Center, worked on Skylab’s development.


Skylab was a crewed U.S. space station adapted from the "emptied" third stage of a Saturn V rocket and launched into orbit in May 1973. It weighed 100 tons and measured over 90 feet long. Skylab’s volume encompassed over 10,000 cubic feet—or the equivalent of a house with 1300 square feet and 8-foot ceilings, plus the advantages of microgravity. Skylab astronauts thus had an interior "room to roam" unmatched by any spacecraft, including Mir.

Three successive crews of three astronauts each occupied Skylab. The longest mission, ending in February 1974, lasted almost three months. Skylab’s totals of both time spent in space and time spent performing spacewalks exceeded the combined totals of all of the world's previous spaceflights up to that time. Skylab's achievements are a credit to the ground crews, as much as to the flight crews. Mission Control operated around the clock during the entire nine-month program.

Skylab 1: May 14, 1973

The station launched uncrewed from Kennedy Space Center, on a huge Saturn V booster, the workhorse of the Apollo Moon program. Sixty-three seconds into flight, Skylab’s meteoroid shield accidentally deployed and tore loose from the space station, taking one of Skylab’s two solar panels with it. A piece of the shield wrapped around the other panel and prevented it from deploying. Skylab achieved its planned, nearly circular 270-mile-high orbit, although now it was virtually unable to generate power.

Ground controllers maneuvered the station so its Apollo telescope mount solar panels would provide as much electricity as possible. But the loss of shade from the meteoroid shield caused interior temperatures to rise to 126 degrees Fahrenheit. NASA postponed launching Skylab 2 for ten days, while engineers developed procedures and trained the crew to make their orbital workshop habitable. Meanwhile, controllers "rolled" Skylab to keep the station cool.

Skylab 2 May 25-June 22, 1973

Charles Conrad, Jr., Paul J. Weitz, and Joseph P. Kerwin

On Skylab’s first crewed mission, the crew rendezvoused with Skylab during their fifth orbit. They performed substantial extravehicular activity repairs, including deployment of a parasol sunshade to cool the inside temperatures to 75 degrees, and freeing a jammed solar array. By June 4, the orbital workshop was in full operation. The crew conducted 392 hours of experiments, including solar astronomy, Earth resources experiments, medical studies, and five student investigations. During 28 days and 50 minutes in orbit, their three spacewalks totaled 6 hours, 20 minutes.

Skylab 3 July 28-September 25, 1973

Alan L. Bean, Jack R. Lousma, and Owen K. Garriott

Skylab 3’s crew continued maintenance of the space station and conducted extensive scientific and medical investigations, including 1,081 hours of solar and Earth experiments. During 59 days and 11 hours in orbit, their three extravehicular activities totaled 13 hours, 43 minutes.

Skylab 4 November 16, 1973-February 8, 1974

Gerald P. Carr, William R. Pogue, and Edward G. Gibson

The last and longest of the Skylab missions included observation of the Comet Kohoutek among the investigations. During 84 days and 1 hour in orbit, their four spacewalks totaled 22 hours, 13 minutes.

Skylab’s Fall

After the Skylab 4 crew returned to Earth, ground controllers put the space station into a stable attitude and shut down its systems. They hoped that Skylab would stay in orbit ten years, when it might be visited again—perhaps by the Space Shuttle. However, in 1977 Skylab entered a rapidly decaying orbit and took the next two years to fall from space. Skylab broke up as it entered the atmosphere. Its debris came down over the eastern Indian Ocean and parts of Western Australia, causing no damage. However, its demise and the 1991 impact of Salyut 7 in southern South America gave people reason to worry about the ultimate destination of Mir.

Skylab’s Findings about Long-Duration Spaceflight

The results from NASA’s first long-duration space missions suggested that space motion sickness could not be predicted in an astronaut. Military pilots with many hours of flying experience might get worse symptoms than non-pilots who are prone to motion sickness. A lower body negative pressure device indicated that body fluid shifted upwards in microgravity, and confirmed the bodily sensations of astronauts. However, cardiovascular deconditioning, which was a big worry, appeared to stabilize after four to six weeks. Decreases in red blood cell mass and minerals were other topics of concern during Skylab. Some bone loss was noted in the lower extremities. Also, a significant increase in the excretion of calcium in crewmembers’ urine was measured in all of Skylab 4’s crewmen. Significant nitrogen and phosphorus were also lost, presumably associated with muscle atrophy.

NASA would not get another opportunity to study the human body’s response to long-duration microgravity conditions until the Shuttle-Mir Program, 21 years later.

See diagrams of Skylab

Read about Early Space Station Activities - 1923 - 1965

Next Chapter - STS-60: A Cosmonaut Flies on the Shuttle!