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Enduring Qualities    

Shannon Lucid during Soyuz survival training in Russia in the Black Sea She returned from space a hero and a teacher of patience, but Shannon Lucid went up to Mir more as a student. Her aims were not so much to endure space hardships as to do her science, to learn all she could, and to get along with her crewmates. These goals paralleled several of NASA’s own goals: to conduct scientific research; to learn how to manage a space station; and to get along with international partners.

Much has been made of Lucid’s record-setting 188 days in orbit with her last six weeks added because of an unexpected delay. But Lucid’s mission was also an early test and a tentative triumph for NASA’s Shuttle-Mir managers. It provided good reason for cautious optimism, as Lucid’s six-month posting to the Russian space station began a continuous, two-and-a-half-year American orbital presence.

Lucid’s own sense of presence and stick-to-it permanence are something to consider when following the story of her NASA-2 increment. What kept Lucid going—and doing so well—had several varied aspects.

First was Lucid’s innate patience, faith, and good humor. She likely learned these qualities from her parents at a very young age. She also worked hard herself at developing them as she grew. Lucid was born in Shanghai, China, to Baptist missionary parents. When she was six weeks old, her family became Japanese prisoners of war. After a year in a internment camp, they were released in a prisoner exchange and returned to the United States. After the war was over, they returned to China. But, they had to leave again when the Communists took control.

Already introduced to living in different cultures, the well-traveled youngster wanted to see and learn more. "I was interested in exploring," Lucid has said. But, when she was young she worried that "by the time I grew up, the world would be explored, so what would be left for me to do?" Then, she read about American rocket pioneer Robert Goddard and she "started reading a little bit of science fiction, and it just sort of clicked." Well, she thought, "You can go explore the universe. That wouldn’t get used up before you grew up." She became a scientist, and then an astronaut. By the time of her Mir experience, Lucid had flown on four Shuttle missions, including the one that released the Galileo spacecraft on its journey to Jupiter.

A second interesting aspect of Lucid’s mission was gender—including its biological, psychological, and societal implications. Lucid had been a member of NASA’s 1978 astronaut class—the first to include females. These women distinguished themselves in space, and they helped make NASA one of the more enlightened U.S. workplaces. Did being a woman give Lucid a special ability to endure? Are women better candidates for long-duration spaceflight? Did Lucid’s male Mir crewmates treat her differently than they might have treated an American male, or than they might have treated any other male? During Shuttle-Mir, a few Russian space officials made comments concerning women’s "traditional" roles, and, by and large, Russian society lags behind American society in women’s rights. Although Lucid has said that she always felt "like I was just being treated as an individual, as myself," both in Russia during training and in orbit with her crewmates, her Mir experience may point to the wisdom of selecting crews of mixed genders to staff the International Space Station.

A third consideration is one of Lucid’s favorite Earthly pastimes: reading. Not only did reading give Lucid a healthy method of psychological escape, but her reading materials—Charles Dickens, for example—may have given her insights into psychology and the human condition, which in turn helped her endure and even enjoy her experience.

A fourth necessity, when considering Lucid’s Mir experience, is to keep in mind a comment made by NASA-3 Mir Astronaut John Blaha, who said that the seven NASA Mir astronauts were actually much alike; however, their situations were different. Indeed, Lucid and those who followed her had already had their ways paved for them by Norm Thagard. Shuttle-Mir operations had much improved. To keep Lucid from repeating Thagard’s cultural deprivation, NASA worked to keep her in contact with family, friends, and events on Earth. This included sending up books and tapes, as well as arranging weekly radio links and biweekly video contacts with her family.

Onufriyenko, Lucid and Usachev talk around the work table in the Base BlockFurthermore, Lucid’s crew turned out to be particularly harmonious. The Russian media had affectionately dubbed her crewmates "the two Yuris." About her crewmates, Mir-21 Commander Yuri Onufriyenko and Flight Engineer Yury Usachev, Lucid said, "They’re both very, very nice people and I’ve enjoyed working with them very, very much. They have different personalities. . . . I think the personalities mesh quite well together. Yuri the commander tends to be a little more quiet, and Yury the [flight] engineer always has something to say. And so that works out real well."

Still further, Lucid’s flight did not have any especially dangerous and frightening events. Certainly, there were problems and inconveniences, and plenty of Mir housekeeping to keep up with. But, Lucid’s day-to-day experiences were not as stressful as some that occurred on other NASA Mir missions.

Regardless, Lucid’s mission was extremely difficult to undertake and complete. She spent by far the most time of any American onboard Mir—with six weeks of her mission being thrust upon her unexpectedly. Already high in orbit, she rose to the occasion.

Her residency began on Saturday evening, March 23, 1996, when Atlantis and the STS-76 crew delivered Lucid to Mir to begin the increment known as NASA-2. She said later, "It was just pretty neat to look out the window and see Mir, and know that [it] was going to be your home. . . . It was great to see Yuri and Yury. They’d been up there a month before I got there. They acted very happy to see me. I believe that they really were. So, as soon as the hatch opened, I moved over and became part of the Mir-21 crew."

While Atlantis was docked to Mir, the crews transferred supplies and equipment, and astronauts Rich Clifford and Linda Godwin conducted a six-hour spacewalk to install MEEP (Mir Environmental Effects Payload) exposure panels on the Mir docking module. Soon after arriving, Lucid had to put to rest a minor controversy in the media that had been started by a comment of a Russian space official. General Yuri Glaskov, Deputy Commander of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center at Star City, had earlier hinted that the two male cosmonauts would welcome Lucid "because we know that women love to clean." He also said, "The simple presence of a lady onboard the Mir station helps . . . because [our crewmembers] simply pay more attention to the way they behave, they act, they speak, and so on.’"

Lucid kindly responded to this in a news conference from orbit. "That kind of thinking doesn’t bother me. We all work together to keep the place pretty tidy." Commander Onufriyenko said that all three crewmates would share in Mir housekeeping and that Lucid would improve the "cultural level" onboard the station.

View of the Mir space station rising above the Earth limb during flyaroundMission Control-Moscow coordinated the Mir crew’s activities, laying out the crew’s work schedule in the form of a "cyclogram"—comparable to a Shuttle Flight Plan. The cyclogram was prepared four days ahead of schedule, but it was modified by both Mission Control-Moscow and the crew via radiograms and separate messages.

A group of scheduling experts from NASA served as consultants to the Russian control team and was on duty in Mission Control-Moscow throughout the crew’s workday. The workday typically began with wake-up around 8 a.m. Moscow time and ended at about 11 p.m. This translated in Houston to midnight to 3 p.m. Central Daylight Time and often caused difficulty for NASA people in both Moscow and Houston to comfortably schedule their own workdays.

A week into Lucid’s residency, the Mir-21 crew had settled into an on-orbit routine of experiment work, including material and life sciences research and Earth observations. The crew focused early on the Optizon Liquid Phase Sintering Experiment, the first American experiment designed to be conducted in the Russian furnace onboard Mir. The Optizon furnace processed metals at high temperatures for future study on the ground, with hopes to improve industrial technologies such as cutting tools.

Lucid also worked to monitor long-term protein crystal growth experiments, and preserved samples for a quail egg experiment that studied embryonic development at various stages in microgravity.

Lucid and her crewmates ended the week of April 12 by observing Russia’s Cosmonautics Day. They celebrated the 35th anniversary of the first human in space—Yuri Gagarin in 1961—and the 15th anniversary of the first U.S. Space Shuttle launch—Columbia in 1981. The cosmonauts talked with family and friends on a two-way video link, and the crew took part in press conferences with both the Russian and American media. Questions during the Russian press conference ranged from where they slept to what language they spoke on the station. The latter question elicited a joking response from Usachev, who said "mainly Russian, but we try to learn more English words so Shannon won’t forget her English." Lucid also said that Russian space food was "pretty good"—with beef stew being her favorite—but she really missed M&M® candies.

Questions about food and democracy came during another radio hookup with high school students at the Ulyanovsk school, about 200 miles outside of Moscow. The students asked Lucid what beverage she liked on Mir. She answered, "Cherry," echoing the fondness that other American Mir astronauts had for the Russian fruit drinks. The students also asked Usachev and Onufriyenko whom they planned to vote for in the June presidential election. The election pitted Boris Yeltsin against his Communist Party opponent Gennady Zyuganov, and there was concern that Zyuganov did not support Russian-American cooperation. The two cosmonauts diplomatically told the students that they planned to vote absentee, but they had not yet decided on their candidates. Interestingly, the students asking this question about Russia’s new democracy were calling from the boyhood school of the first Soviet dictator, Vladimir Lenin. Indeed, Lenin’s original family name was Ulyanovsk.

The week of April 19 was spent conducting science experiments, documenting Earth observation sites, performing small-scale maintenance procedures, and searching—without success—for a small, troublesome leak in one of the thermal cooling loops in Mir’s core module (Base Block). Similar leaks would grow into major problems for future Mir crews.

Usachev/Lucid stowageThe crew began preparations for the arrival of the Priroda science module, which would complete Mir’s configuration. The launch was supposed to have taken place six weeks earlier on March 10 so that Priroda would be ready for Lucid when she arrived. However, the module had been delayed twice—once because of its late delivery from the Khrunichev factory, and once because a commercial launch took priority. Ironically, not only was Russia practicing democracy but it was embracing capitalism.

The crew continued work with the Optizon experiment, and they kept repositioning the space acceleration measurement system to measure the slightest movements of the Mir station. These measurements would help experimenters on Earth explain any changes noticed in their data after the mission. The crew also kept taking periodic radiation measurements by repositioning a dosimeter around the station. They took blood samples, and they were able to fix a body mass measuring device used to record any changes in crewmembers’ body masses due to microgravity.

On the radio, Lucid’s Mir-21 crew talked with Russian cosmonauts Gennadi Manakov and Pavel Vinogradov, and French cosmonaut Claudie Andre-Deshays, who were the designated Mir-22 crew scheduled to launch to the station in July. They also discussed training with the designated Mir-24 crewmembers Valeri Korzun and Alexander Kaleri. Unknown to anyone at the time, Korzun and Kaleri would later take Manakov’s and Vinogradov’s places on Mir-22 because of a last-moment heart problem for Manakov.

On April 23, 1996—one month into Lucid’s mission—the Priroda module launched aboard a Proton rocket and took a rapid course to Mir to save battery power. One of its two battery systems dropped "off line" because of overheating, and it was later learned that the malfunction had caused a fire. On April 26, a flawless automated docking occurred. However, because of potential dangers due to the malfunction, Lucid was instructed to stay in the Soyuz escape capsule during the docking.

The next day, the cosmonauts used the Lyappa robot arm to move Priroda to its permanent berthing port, opposite the Kristall module. With Priroda’s addition, Mir was now complete. It was bigger, newer, and more capable, and it carried five major U.S. science facilities, weighing about a ton, with additional Earth observation equipment mounted on the outside. Furthermore, in the words of Shuttle-Mir scientist Tom Sullivan, "One of the more mundane things about a space station is that there is never enough closet space. Priroda does bring a great deal of additional stowage volume for science hardware that will be brought up on future Shuttle flights."

During the week of the Priroda docking, Lucid conducted an inventory of all U.S. hardware onboard Mir. The crew completed the Optizon Liquid Phase Sintering Experiment and proceeded with the protein crystal growth experiments. They also kept working with the space acceleration measurement system, recording the slightest movements of the space station.

In early May, the Mir-21 crew worked to prepare the new Priroda module. This included cleaning up contamination due to the fire and wrapping in plastic the 168 big batteries that had powered Priroda while on its way to Mir. This activity, expected to take six days, was accomplished by the crew in less than two days. They also connected Priroda to the Mir’s power system and began troubleshooting a Priroda power system problem detected during the rendezvous.

In a letter to Earth, Lucid described the crew’s work in Priroda. "After a lot of work, the batteries on the floor were unbolted and I thought the job was complete. Then, Yuri opened a panel that revealed more rows of batteries to be unbolted. Another opened panel revealed yet more batteries; there were batteries without end!!! And, each battery had to be unbolted, plastic caps had to be put on the four ‘feet’ and on the connectors, and then each battery had to be bagged and tightly tied. Talk about a lot of work!!!! To even reach the batteries, some of the equipment had to be unbolted and the supporting metal framework taken apart.

"So there the three of us were, floating in Priroda surrounded by floating batteries, bagged batteries, equipment, and scrap metal. At times I thought that there was enough scrap metal floating there to build station Alpha!!! Periodically, free-floating metal pieces would impact each other, creating clear metallic tones like cathedral bells in the module and we joked with each other about the ‘cosmic music’ that we were hearing. We devised an assembly line to clean up the mess and got so efficient that we finished the task in one-sixth of the time that the ground expected and earned ourselves a holiday."

As part of her Earth observations work, Lucid took photographs of the massive wildfires burning out of control in Mongolia. Lucid reported that she had not seen such large fires from space during any of her previous four Space Shuttle flights.

On May 7, 1996, the unmanned Progress docked automatically with Mir on the first attempt. The crew got busy unloading food, supplies, and equipment, and they "made some good inroads" into their fresh supply of candy. The Progress arrival helped the crew in preparing the Priroda module for the startup of science activities. These activities had been slowed, partly because of all the packing materials that came out of Priroda, because until Progress arrived, there was no place to temporarily store the trash.

The crewmembers also continued troubleshooting the Priroda power system. They replaced three nickel-cadmium batteries, which seemed to fix the problem. Lucid prepared and successfully tested the Mir interface payload system.

She also conducted blood analysis using the portable clinical blood analyzer. And, she reviewed experiment procedures and her pre-mission training using a new audio-video compact disk system called the crew on-orbit support system.

On May 9, Lucid made a telephone call to her parents in Oklahoma in honor of her mother, who was celebrating her 81st birthday. The next day, Lucid "saw" and spoke to her family in Houston through a two-way video conference in advance of Mother’s Day.

By mid-May, the Mir-21 crew was gearing up for spacewalks by Onufriyenko and Usachev. In the new Priroda, Lucid set up the Biotechnology System, designed to support long-duration cell culture experiments in microgravity. The Mir crew also prepared two Canadian experiments: the microgravity isolation mount and the Queen’s University Experiment in Liquid Diffusion (QUELD). Although bad nickel-cadmium batteries had been replaced the previous week, another power controller on Priroda had failed. As a result, flight controllers at Mission Control-Moscow would now monitor and control battery charging from the ground. The crew continued to search for the source of the coolant leak.

On May 20 and 24, with Lucid assisting from inside Mir, Onufriyenko and Usachev conducted two spacewalks lasting five-and-one-half hours each. They removed the Mir cooperative solar array from its stowed position on the exterior of the docking module at the base of Kristall. They used the Strela boom to reach and move the array to the Kvant module. They also deployed an aluminum and nylon pup-up model of a Pepsi Cola® can, which they then filmed against the backdrop of Earth. The soft drink company paid for the procedure and planned to use the film in a television commercial. However, the commercial never aired—reportedly because Pepsi® later changed the design of the can.

NASA science activities continued even while the crew prepared for and conducted the spacewalks. Lucid worked inside Priroda to complete verification of the microgravity isolation mount facility and to check out the microgravity glovebox. Using magnetic levitation, the microgravity isolation mount could isolate experiments from vibrations and other disturbances, and the glovebox would be used for many microgravity experiments. Lucid also performed several life sciences experiments, including studying changes to the human immune system in space. Lucid continued her Earth observation activities and photographed the eruption of the Montserrat volcano in the Caribbean.

Yuri Onufriyenko and Yury Usachev during EVA Mir-21 flight engineer Yury Usachev Late at night on May 30, Onufriyenko and Usachev conducted another extravehicular activity of four hours, 20 minutes, to install the modular optoelectrical multispectral scanner outside Priroda. The scanner, which flew on Shuttle missions STS-7 and STS-41B, would be used to study the Earth’s atmosphere and environment. From inside Mir, Lucid sent commands to power up the system once the spacewalkers finished installing the hardware. The two spacewalkers also installed a new handrail on the Kvant-2 module to facilitate moving around outside the station during future extravehicular activities.

As Lucid passed through the halfway point in her mission, she told reporters during a space-to-ground news conference, "I couldn’t ask for anything more out of a flight than what I’ve gotten out of this flight so far. If the second half is as good . . . all I can say is you just can’t beat it."

About her relationship with her two crewmates, she said, "I think maybe we laugh a little more together now than we did at the very beginning because we’re more comfortable with each other and we understand each other."

Although the whole world seemed interested in her, and although she was zipping around the entire planet every 90 minutes, Lucid’s personal and professional world had shrunk. Later, she would remark, "There I was on Mir, and on a daily basis I talked with the American support group in [the] Russian control center . . . and most days it was twice a day. I talked with Bill Gerstenmeier, who was in charge of the science experiments . . . and Gaylen Johnson, the Flight Surgeon who also worked with Bill. So, a lot of times it was just the three of us, and the world seemed to shrink down to that."

Onboard Mir, a data card failed within the Mir interface to the payload systems computer. A new card would be delivered on a Progress vehicle in July, but that card would not work either and Lucid would have to record all the data onboard.

On June 6, Onufriyenko and Usachev conducted a spacewalk of three hours, 34 minutes. They replaced cassettes in the Swiss/Russian Komza experiment and installed the Particle Impact Experiment, the Mir Sample Return Experiment, and the SKK-11 cassette, which exposed construction materials to space conditions.

During the week of June 14, Lucid completed the Humoral Immunity Experiment, which measured the effects of spaceflight on the human immune system. Previous investigations had suggested that perhaps the human immune system is suppressed during long-duration space missions. For this experiment, Lucid injected herself with an immune system stimulant.

She then collected blood and saliva samples that would be compared to samples taken before and after her stay on Mir to measure changes in her body’s response to the stimulant. Results later indicated that there was no immune system suppression. Also, Lucid performed an experiment designed to measure the forces generated as a crewmember pushes off the surfaces of the spacecraft to move about.

Onufriyenko and Usachev performed the sixth in their series of spacewalks, installing a truss structure called Rapana to the Kvant-1 module. Rapana took the place of a similar structure named Strela as a mounting point for future experiments. Strela could now be used better as a spacewalker’s moveable "ladder." Onufriyenko and Usachev also manually deployed the saddle-shaped traverse synthetic aperture radar antenna on Priroda. The large antenna had failed to open fully after receiving commands from inside Mir.

Atlantis moving into the VAB for shelter from a hurricane.Big news came up to Mir on June 21, foreshadowing the announcement that Lucid would have a longer-than-planned spaceflight. Russia’s news agency Interfax reported that Yuri Onufriyenko and Yury Usachev would be on Mir until August 30. Yuri Koptev, the Director General of the Russian Space Agency, was quoted as saying that there wasn’t enough money to build the Soyuz booster rockets necessary for ferrying cosmonauts to and from the Mir. At this moment, 90 days into her stay onboard Mir, however Lucid’s future remained according to plan. She was slated to return to Earth as scheduled on a U.S. Space Shuttle in early August.

The Mir crew continued with their scientific duties, including running the Canadian Queen’s University Experiment in Liquid Diffusion and sampling the air in Mir with the solid-sorbent air sampler and the grab sample container. The solidsorbent air sampler was designed to sample air quality over 24 hours; the grab sample container took quick, snapshot-type readings of air quality.

As July passed, the other shoe dropped for the Mir-21 crew. Lucid would also remain on Mir. And, she would stay for an unknown period—at least until STS-79 could be cleared for launch. NASA engineers at Kennedy Space Center had observed unusual soot patterns in the joints of the Shuttle solid rocket boosters used on STS-78. NASA Shuttle-Mir Program Manager Frank Culbertson told his Russian counterpart Valery Ryumin about the situation in an informal July 3 memo noting that "the worst case . . . is a potentially serious problem for our joint schedule.

You should be aware of the situation." Compounding matters, a very active Atlantic hurricane season was in progress. Hurricane Bertha threatened the Florida spaceport, and the Atlantis Orbiter was moved for protection back into the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA engineers decided to replace the possibly flawed solid rocket boosters.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid using the Russian LBNP suit On July 12, NASA announced that Lucid’s mission to Mir would be extended to mid-September. Culbertson had already contacted Lucid with the news, who took the information in her stride. Three days later, while considering the receding time horizon in front of her, Lucid sailed through Norm Thagard’s 115-day record for the longest American time in orbit. In press conferences that week, she told reporters, "The two things I had planned on being home for were my son’s birthday and my daughter’s birthday . . . but I told them we’d make it up to them when I do get home." Her son Michael would turn 21 on August 22, and her daughter Kawai would turn 28 on September 19. Lucid also said she would continue to miss things "like going to the bookstore . . . potato chips and junk food. And, . . . feeling wind and the Sun." On the other hand, she said, "You know, that’s life. And, we’ll just go on and I’ll continue to have an enjoyable time."

Lucid also recorded an address to be played as part of the opening ceremonies at the XXVI Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The Olympics were about running marathons and breaking records, and Lucid was now being seen as a star athlete in space.

She later joked that one of her first thoughts upon hearing of the extension was "Oh, no, not another month-and-a-half of treadmill running!" But, Lucid persevered. She persevered with her science, too. Only one of her 28 scheduled experiments failed to yield results because of equipment breakdown. In the Candle Flame in Microgravity Glovebox Experiment, she had burned 51 candles to study the complicated physiochemical process of combustion. The original plan was based on a total of 60 candles, but Lucid would burn a total of 79 candles of varying size, wick diameter, and length. Along with the candle flame sessions, the crew collected other microgravity data with the enhanced dynamic load sensors and space acceleration measurement system.

View of the entire interior of the greenhouse During the week of July 19, the crew began assembling the Russian/Bulgarian Svet facility in preparation for the Fundamental Biology Greenhouse Plant Experiment. By studying the chemical, biochemical, and structural changes in plant tissues, researchers hoped to understand how processes such as photosynthesis, respiration, transpiration, stomatal conductance, and water use are affected by microgravity. Plants could eventually be a major contributor to spaceflight life support systems because they produce oxygen and food while eliminating carbon dioxide and excess humidity from the environment. Although it had not been planned for Lucid to perform this experiment, she was able to do so, demonstrating how well the on-orbit training of astronauts can work.

During the next few weeks, until the arrival of the Mir-22 crew and French cosmonaut Claudie Andre-Deshays, the Mir-21 crew continued with a full scientific program, including Earth observations and studies of radiation, tissue growth, and neuromuscular activity. They finished fabricating the Svet greenhouse and planted the first wheat seeds, after using an extension power cord to plug the greenhouse into a steadier power supply. They also continued troubleshooting the biotechnology system to ensure its readiness for the next Mir mission.

Progress-232 launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 31 and docked with Mir on August 2. The resupply vehicle brought more than two tons of supplies for the crew, including fresh food, oxygen, and experiment hardware for the upcoming French Mir mission. Charlie Stegemoeller, Shuttle-Mir Research Implementation Manager, talked about the process of getting extra supplies to Mir for Lucid’s extended stay. He said, "The Russians are used to taking care of the crew at the last minute. So, they understood what we were trying to achieve by getting additional items up to Shannon. It was just a question of what could we send, and what would she want to have. So, we had a conversation with the crew, and we gathered items together from the family and the Flight Surgeons, and we passed those on to Moscow." Books were already taken care of in the family packages that were ready to go on the Progress, but Stegemoeller said that Lucid had commented that "they didn’t have enough sweets on orbit or salty items, so we packed up a good grocery bag full of stuff . . . items that they don’t normally get because there’s no snack vending machine around the corner."

The crew busied themselves unloading and stowing the food and equipment. In early August, they continued troubleshooting the Elektron oxygen-generating system. For three days, the crew turned off the gyrodyne system, which provided control of the Mir, to allow the cosmonauts time to refurbish the system. Mir maintained its attitude using thruster firings.

Shanon Lucid in the entrance to the transfer tunnelOn August 16, Soyuz TM-24 launched from Baikonur with the Mir-22 crew of Valeri Korzun, Alexander Kaleri, and French cosmonaut Claudie Andre-Deshays. On August 19—Lucid’s 150th day in orbit—the Soyuz TM-24 spacecraft docked with Mir. Mir would be home to six cosmonauts and researchers from three different countries—Russia, France, and the United States—until Onufriyenko, Usachev, and Andre-Deshays returned to Earth. NASA’s Shuttle-Mir science team coordinated with the French so that there was no impact to Lucid’s science program.

Meanwhile, Lucid prepared for the end of her own stay and the arrival of Atlantis by conducting a thorough inventory of experiment supplies and equipment in the Spektr and Priroda modules of Mir for her handover to John Blaha. Lucid had so far packed seven bags of completed experiment samples, data, and equipment from her six months in space to be transported aboard Atlantis back to scientists on Earth. And, she reported that the dwarf wheat crop was about two inches tall, three weeks after planting.

At the end of August, Lucid was nearing an all-time record for the length of time a woman had spent in space on a single flight. She told reporters, "My family would be surprised at the patience I’ve developed in space. I hope I can bring some of that back with me."

On September 2, the Soyuz TM-23 undocked with Lucid’s Mir-21 crewmates and Andre-Deshays. Lucid remained onboard the space station with the Mir-22 crew of Korzun and Kaleri. On September 7, Lucid broke Elena Kondakova’s 169-day record for longest stay in space by a woman. During a NASA news conference at about this time, Yuri Glaskov, Deputy Commander of Russia’s Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, was asked what he thought about Lucid’s taking the Russian record. Glaskov chuckled and said, "I don’t think you’ve taken the record from us.

We have offered this record to you." He also said, "As far as Dr. Shannon Lucid is concerned, I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the management of the program for making such a selection. Because everybody’s fond of [her]. . . . Everybody loves her."

In a radio phone linkup, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin congratulated Lucid and asked what lessons could be taken from her experience. Lucid responded that on Shuttle missions, less crew involvement with experiments was better because of the press of time. But, on long-duration flights, it was important to increase the crewmembers’ involvement with experiments and to improve and expand communications with the experiment’s principal investigators on Earth.

That would help keep a scientist happy.

On September 16, Atlantis with the STS-79 crew launched from Kennedy Space Center, bringing NASA-3 Mir Astronaut John Blaha to Mir. Shannon Lucid returned to Earth on September 26, 1996, after completing 188 days in Earth orbit and a record-breaking duration for the U.S.

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Lucid Biography

NASA portrait of Astronaut Shannon LucidShannon Lucid was born in Shanghai, China, the daughter of missionaries. She attended the University of Oklahoma and earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and then a Master of Science and a Ph.D. in biochemistry. She is a licensed pilot.

Lucid was one of the first women admitted into the astronaut program and became a NASA astronaut in 1979. Before Shuttle-Mir, she flew on four Space Shuttle missions, including STS-34, which released the Galileo spacecraft on its long journey to explore Jupiter and its Moons. She also flew on STS-58 with John Blaha and David Wolf, who also participated in the Shuttle-Mir Program.

President Bill Clinton awarded Lucid the Congressional Space Medal of Honor after her Shuttle-Mir mission. She is the only woman to have received this award.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin awarded her the Order of Friendship Medal, the highest Russian award that can be presented to a noncitizen.

Shannon Lucid is working with the International Space Station Program while she prepares to be assigned to another flight. Among her preparations are completing winter survival training at Cold Lake, Canada.

Read more about Shannon Lucid and NASA-2.

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"Pink Socks and Jello"

patchMay 19,1996

Here it is, another Sunday on Mir!!! And how, you might ask, do I know that it’s Sunday? Easy!!! I have on my pink socks and Yuri, Yury, and I have just finished sharing a bag of Jell-O!!!

When light follows darkness every 45 minutes, it is important that I have simple ways of marking the passage of time. The pink socks were found on STS-76 and Kevin, the commander, said that they were obviously put on as a surprise for me, so I took them with me over to Mir and decided to wear them on Sundays.

And the Jell-O? It is the greatest improvement in spaceflight since my first flight over 10 years ago. When I found out that there was a refrigerator onboard Mir, I asked the food folks at JSC if they could put Jell-O in a drink bag. Once aboard Mir, we could just add hot water, put the bag in the refrigerator and, later, have a great treat. Well, the food folks did just that and sent a variety of flavors with me to try out. We tried the Jell-O first as a special treat for Easter. It was so great that we decided the Mir-21/ NASA-2 crew tradition would be to share a bag of Jell-O every Sunday night. (Every once in a while, Yuri will come up to me and say, "Isn’t today Sunday?" and I will say "No, it’s not. No Jell-O tonight!!!")

There have been a lot of changes here on Mir since I arrived. And no, the changes were not because I am here!!!

The first big change was the arrival of Priroda, the final segment that is to be added to Mir. This segment is called Priroda because that’s the Russian word for nature and there are sensors on the outside of the segment to study the Earth. The U.S. science equipment is located inside this segment.

As a graduate student years ago, I fantasized about having my own laboratory. I must admit, though, that in none of my fantasies was I gazing out the window of a space station watching "my laboratory" approach like a gigantic silver bullet moving in slow motion toward the station’s heart!! Reality is indeed stranger than fiction!!!!

There had been a power problem on Priroda after its launch, so there was some concern about SO2 leaking from the batteries into the atmosphere. When it arrived, we had to wait and check out the air quality before opening the hatch. Yuri checked the air and pronounced it good. After listening to the hissing air as the atmospheric pressure was equalized between Priroda and Mir, the hatch was opened. And yes, it was a dramatic moment! There it was, all bright, shiny, and new.

The other big change, although it is not permanent, was the arrival of Progress, the resupply vehicle. Usually about every six weeks one is sent to Mir with food, equipment, clothes and everything that, on Earth, you would have to go to the store and buy in order to live. Because it had deployed solar batteries, it was easier to spot while approaching the station than Priroda had been. I saw it first. There were big thunderstorms out in the Atlantic, with a brilliant display of lightening like visual tom-toms. The cities were strung out like Christmas lights along the coast and there was the Progress like a bright morning star skimming along the top!!! Suddenly, its brightness increased dramatically and Yuri said, "The engine just fired." Soon, it was close enough so that we could see the deployed solar arrays. To me, it looked like some alien insect headed straight toward us. All of a sudden I really did feel like I was in a "cosmic outpost" anxiously awaiting supplies—and really hoping that my family did remember to send me some books and candy!!!

Soon after it docked, the three of us began opening the hatch. When Yuri opened a small valve to equalize the pressure, we could smell the air that was in Progress. Yuri said, "Smell the fresh food." I will admit it was a fruit smell, but I thought it smelled more like the first time you open your refrigerator after a 2-week vacation only to discover you had forgotten to clean out the vegetable compartment.

The first things we took out were our personal packages and, yes, I quickly peeked in to see if my family had remembered the books and candy I’d requested. Of course they had. Then we started to unpack. We found the fresh food and stopped right there for lunch. We had fresh tomatoes and onions; I never have had such a good lunch. For the next week we had fresh tomatoes three times a day. It was a sad meal when we ate the last ones!!!

After our impromptu lunch, we took the rest of the afternoon off, looking at our mail that was in the packages and enjoying the apples and oranges that were also onboard. Yuri commented that for the first time all six of the docking ports were now occupied—a Guinness Book record!

Like I said, I had a wonderful bag of new books on Progress. My daughters had hand-selected each one, so I knew I’d enjoy them. I picked out one and rapidly read it. I came to the last page and the hero, who was being chased by an angry mob, escaped by stepping through a mirror. The end. Continued in Volume Two. And, was there Volume Two in my book bag? No. Could I dash out to the bookstore? No. Talk about a feeling of total isolation and frustration!!! You would never believe that grown children could totally frustrate you with their good intentions while you were in low Earth orbit, but let me tell you, they certainly can. Suddenly, August and home seem a long way away!!!!


Read more of Shannon Lucid's Letters.

Read Shannon Lucid's Article for Scientific American.

Read other letters written from Mir


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Books Onboard Mir

 Lucid with bookcase  on Spektr moduleFor recreation, Mir crewmembers exercised, conversed, played computer games, watched movies, observed the Earth, wrote e-mails, and read books. Shannon Lucid said the Russians had quite a library on Mir. As stowage was always a problem on the space station, some of the books had to be stuffed behind a panel.

Regarding her own Mir reading experience, Lucid said, "Here I was, reading David Copperfield and Bleak House.

I thought, Wow, here was this guy," Charles Dickens, who "lived in a totally different era. . . . And, it had never ever crossed his mind that his book would be read . . . by an American on a Russian space station. I mean, that would have just absolutely blown his mind—that the words that he penned way back there in England, I was reading on Mir."

Lucid thought often "about the power that authors have," and about Dickens’ ideas and how "his story was transcending the centuries—transcending culture" and improving her life in space.

When Lucid left Mir, she left most of her books behind. Unfortunately for some of her successors, her books, stored in the Spektr module, became inaccessible because of the June 1997 Progress collision.

NASA-7 Mir Astronaut Andy Thomas took many paperbacks to Mir, including science fiction and some classics such as Edgar Allen Poe and Mark Twain. Thomas said, "I’d always wanted to read Huckleberry Finn, since it’s a landmark book . . . and very controversial." And so, Twain’s story of Huck and Jim floating on their raft on the mighty Mississippi was read by a man floating in outer space.

Another book Shannon Lucid took to Mir was a small Bible, which she always carried when she traveled. She said that she noticed a Gideon’s Bible in one of the cosmonaut’s cabinets. "It was in Russian," she said, "a little New Testament."


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Women on Mir, Women in Space

Astronaut Eileen Collins at Test Pilot School, posing in her flight gearShannon Lucid was the third woman to live onboard Mir.

The first woman, Helen Sharman, arrived on Mir via a Soyuz rocket with future Shuttle-Mir STS-60 cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev. A British food scientist and the first Briton in space, Sharman won a contest and got to visit Mir for six days in May 1991. Since the British contest sponsors were not able to raise all of the required money, the Soviet government had to subsidize her flight.

Cosmonaut Elena Kondakova spent 169 days onboard Mir in 1994-95. Kondakova set the space endurance record later broken by Lucid. In 1997, Kondakova visited Mir again, as a Mission Specialist on the NASA STS-84 mission. Frenchwoman Claudie Andre-Deshays became the fourth woman to live onboard Mir when she visited for two weeks during Lucid’s residency.

During Shuttle-Mir, nine American female astronauts visited Mir. Ellen Baker, Bonnie Dunbar, Linda Godwin, Marsha Ivins, Wendy Lawrence, Shannon Lucid, Janet Kavandi, and Janice Voss served as Mission Specialists. Eileen Collins served as the Pilot on the "near Mir" STS-63 mission, and later docked with Mir as Pilot on STS-84. Dunbar and Lawrence visited Mir twice.

The first-ever woman in space was Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who flew in 1963. In 1982, Svetlana Savitskaya was the second woman in space and the first female to conduct a spacewalk. In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American female astronaut to fly in space. Kathryn Sullivan made the first spacewalk by an American woman in 1984.

When cosmonaut Kondakova flew on STS-84 in 1997, she became the 29th woman to fly onboard an American spaceship. As of April 2000, 108 men and 32 women were in NASA’s astronaut corps, and NASA was preparing to hire new astronaut candidates. In Russia’s cosmonaut corps, there were 43 men and two women, Elena Kondakova and Nadezda Vasilyevna Kuzhelnaya.


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Meanwhile on Earth

View or Mir Space Station over FloridaBill Gerstenmaier was the Operations Lead during Shannon Lucid’s mission. Later, he talked about how he adapted to supporting a long-duration astronaut onboard Mir. He said that one difference between the American and Russian programs was that short-duration flights require a "very concise, very ‘one-answer,’" way of operating, "with no creativity—whereas long duration allows you a lot of creativity."

Gerstenmaier followed the Russians’ example, in that, when he spoke to Lucid during the communications passes, he began slowly. "When I would talk to her on [a communications pass], my first question to her would be, ‘How are you? What’s going on? Is there anything you need to tell me?’ Even though I may have had a huge list of 50 items I’ve got to tell her, my first thing was always nice and calm. I didn’t use the official NASA radio language, ‘Over,’ and ‘Roger,’ and ‘Out,’ and all the short abbreviation stuff. . . . I wanted it to come across as, ‘We’ve got forever. . . . We’re going to just do this nice and easy, and then we’ll work it out.’"

As soon as Lucid had her say, Gerstenmaier would "start through my list of 50 things. And, I would get through as many of them as I could in the com pass. . . . I would tell her steps of the experiment she was going to be doing that were critical—that had to be done a certain way." As for procedures that allowed some variability, "I let her know that she had free-form to go do those any way she wanted. . . . I tried to give her enough information that she could go run the experiment autonomously without me being around."

During Shannon Lucid’s mission onboard Mir, future NASA Mir astronauts continued to prepare for their spaceflights at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City. Astronaut Wendy Lawrence took over from Charlie Precourt as Director of Operations-Russia after Precourt returned to the United States to train as Commander of STS-84, which would fly to Mir in 1997. In addition to overseeing astronaut training activities at Star City, Lawrence was taking Russian language classes several times a week.

During May 1996, NASA established an office at RSC Energia, the Russian rocket corporation, and opened a communications center on the sixth floor of the Renaissance (Penta) Hotel in downtown Moscow. The communications center was equipped with computer, fax, copier, and telephone, and greatly improved communications for NASA and its Shuttle-Mir contractors. The STS-81 Atlantis crew arrived for four days of training with the Mir-22 crew and U.S. astronauts John Blaha and Jerry Linenger. The STS-81 crew received classes on Mir’s construction, components, and life support and communication systems, and they had several sessions with the Mir-22 crew and their backups, going over docking and transfer procedures. John Blaha trained in Star City on Mir equipment for his upcoming NASA-3 mission. NASA-4 and NASA-5 Mir Astronauts Jerry Linenger and Mike Foale participated in their first training in the Russian Orlan extravehicular activity spacesuit. Mir backup astronaut Jim Voss participated in language and physical training. John Blaha worked with several science experiments he would conduct onboard Mir.

Jerry Linenger’s training included emergency evacuation procedures used onboard Mir, and he undertook two sessions in the altitude chamber. Mike Foale spent a session in the Hydrolab, the Russian swimming pool that was used to simulate the weightless environment of space. He then learned about the construction and components of Mir, including its control panels and life support system.

In late May, Blaha conducted his final training sessions for the U.S. experiments he would perform as part of the Mir-22 crew.

He also allowed scientists to take some of his physical measurements, to be compared to measurements taken during and after his Mir mission. Linenger’s training focused on both Mir systems and U.S. science experiments, while Foale spent the week doing water survival training in the Black Sea. Backup Jim Voss began his first classes on the Soyuz transport module.

In early June, Blaha had a chance to talk to Shannon Lucid about lessons she had learned so far in her mission. She told him she was pleased with the progress of her flight and suggested that he learn more about the workings of Mission Control-Moscow. Linenger completed water survival training, and then he participated in science training sessions while Foale focused on Mir’s control panels and life support system.

As Lucid’s Mir mission continued, Blaha and Linenger took medical examinations for their Russian certifications for spaceflight. Linenger and Foale completed a four-hour extravehicular activity training session in the Hydrolab.

Meanwhile, funding was approved for modifications to the Space Shuttle Discovery to enable it to perform the last Shuttle docking (STS-91) with Mir. And, NASA’s Shuttle-Mir Program Manager, Frank Culbertson, had to inform his Russian counterparts that STS-79 would have to be postponed until September.

As Lucid’s journey was ending, Russian and U.S. space officials signed a formal agreement making the U.S. astronauts an integral part of the Mir crew. Work had already begun to modify the training program to allow for expanded duties.


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Around the Clock, Around the Globe

NASA teams work all hours to solve problems. The most famous example is the recovery and return to Earth of Apollo 13, after the mission experienced its explosion and crisis in April 1970. But even that harrowing event was over in a few days, and except for the Skylab long-duration spaceflight program in 1973, NASA had not needed to "stretch the clock" for more than the two weeks needed for a long Shuttle flight.

With Shuttle-Mir, NASA teams were burning the candle at both ends—and at both ends of the world. Not only was a NASA mission going for two-and-a-half years straight, but a problem of time zones and work days existed with Moscow time nine hours ahead of Houston time. Typically, Muscovites are heading home from work just when Houstonians start their work days. To further complicate the situation, most Russian workers relied on public transportation, and so they had to leave Mission Control before the buses stopped running in the evenings.

NASA’s Star City people carried on. Astronaut and Director of Operations-Russia, Brent Jett, described a typical day. He said, "At around four or five o'clock . . . Houston would be waking up. Every day, you had videocoms or telecoms." And then, "you'd pretty much work in the office doing e-mail with people in Houston and talking on the phone . . . usually at least until ten or eleven."

However, the situation wasn’t always as bad as it might sound. Jett added, "It was kind of nice because the people who worked there were also the people that you socialized with. So even though you were working late, it wasn't like being at work all the time. There was a much more social environment."

Further, long-duration spaceflights can have a time-related benefit. When a mission lasts months instead of days, controllers and crews do not always have to rush to solve a problem. Except in emergencies, many problems will "still be there in the morning," and can often wait awhile before they have to be solved.

Next Chapter - STS-79: First American Handover!