| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Recommitment to Mir

 Wolf examines petri dish in Priroda Before David Wolf got his chance to fly to Mir, the risks had become more than statistical probabilities. Alarming events had happened on the Russian space station. Wolf’s predecessors, Jerry Linenger and Mike Foale, had faced fire and collision. The U.S. Congress, the world’s news media, and even former astronauts now questioned the wisdom of sending up another American to Mir. Wolf should not go, some said, because Mir was too old and too dangerous. NASA and the Congress ordered extensive reviews.

The buck finally stopped at Wolf’s two bosses: Shuttle-Mir Program Manager Frank Culbertson and NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. Each considered the situation from his own perspective. Culbertson drew on his experience as an astronaut and his sensibilities as Wolf’s friend. Goldin focused on safety and the mission’s importance to the nation. Culbertson and Goldin used every minute of the time that they had, which was all the time that they needed. Goldin announced the recommitment to fly Wolf on the morning before the launch of Atlantis.

On September 25, 1997, when Wolf rose spaceward to begin his 128 days in orbit, he looked forward to doing the hard, sometimes grimy duty onboard Mir.

He later noted that his predecessors had "done a great job fighting the alligators and it was now time to drain the swamps." He also hoped to make an exciting spacewalk alongside a Russian extravehicular activity master.

Wolf flew—and he flew with gusto and affability. In his own mind, he was not flying in spite of the risks. Nor was he flying cavalierly because of them. Wolf flew to Mir because he had carefully weighed his mission’s risks. He had considered its value to humanity’s progress. And, like all astronauts, he knew that he wanted those intangible, personal rewards that would come from an historic, out-of-this-world opportunity. He said later, "Personally, I was sure I was going the whole time, and I never had one moment of second thought…. I carefully went through the issues, and I was absolutely comfortable stepping through the various scenarios and responses…. In fact, I became more convinced that we should continue the more familiar I became with the details." He was confident that others would ultimately feel the same, and he stressed that it was exactly at this time—when things were difficult—that "we should demonstrate the strength of our partnership with the Russians."

David Wolf’s background and personality were suited to long-duration spaceflight. He was an astronaut, a physician, a researcher, an inventor, and an aerobatics pilot. Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1956, Wolf had grown up to become a gregarious Jack-of-all-trades who enjoyed both theoretical thinking and skinned-knuckle mechanics. While attending medical school at Indiana University, he worked at the Indianapolis Center for Advanced Research, specializing in medical ultrasonic signal processing. He completed his internship and, in 1983, joined NASA’s Medical Sciences Division at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He directed the development of the space bioreactor that was to see service on Mir. He also worked as chief engineer in charge of the design for the space station medical facility. Wolf became a NASA astronaut in 1991 and flew as a crewmember onboard STS-58, a medical research mission.

Wolf, Lawrence, and  Zaletin participate in Soyuz training activities in Russia.When tapped for the NASA-6 increment on Mir, Wolf was already in Russia, training as the backup to Wendy Lawrence. He inherited her slot when she was disqualified due to the new stipulation that all Mir astronauts must be extravehicular activity-ready and fit within the size limits of the Russian Orlan suits. For Lawrence, this was yet another "too short" situation, similar to the one that had bumped Mike Foale into the role of flying on NASA-5. For Wolf, it hurried his trip to the space station. He had been planning on flying last, after Lawrence’s increment.

Besides delivering Wolf, the STS-86 mission included the delivery of a new motion control computer and a solar array cap. On the final day of docked operations, Wolf’s new crewmates—Mir-24 Commander Anatoly Solovyev and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov—installed the new computer and, shortly before Atlantis docked, they activated Mir’s gyrodynes to help keep the space station stable.

During his residency aboard Mir, Wolf wrote a series of "Letters Home." In one of them, he related the undocking: "The Space Shuttle Atlantis’ hatch shut, its docking hooks released, and its translational thruster jets fired. I could clearly see Jim’s [Wetherbee] and Mike’s [Bloomfield] faces peering through the Shuttle’s overhead window. We waved. Mike’s other hand moved, and another minus Z-axis translational pulse increased our rate of separation. Another volley of bright orange rocket engines flashed against the dimly Moonlit Earth."

 Atlantis after undocking from the Mir  Atlantis pilot Mike Bloomfield held position for nearly an hour until the two spacecraft moved into orbital daylight. Then, Bloomfield did a slow fly-around of Mir while his crewmates took video and still photos of the entire station, concentrating on the damaged Spektr module. In an attempt to find the hole in Spektr’s hull, Commander Solovyev opened a valve to pump air into the module, hoping that the Atlantis crew would spot debris being vented out to space. Mir Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov saw a particle floating away from the module, but he said he couldn’t detect the exact location where it came from.

Wolf with Vinogradov and SolovyevAs Atlantis left Mir on its journey back to Earth, Wolf already felt at ease in his new orbital home. STS-86 Commander Jim Wetherbee later recalled how Wolf had ended every telecommunications session while the Shuttle was still docked. According to Wetherbee, Wolf told the ground controllers, "Now, be careful down there. You’re awfully close to the ground. You don’t want to get hurt." Wetherbee thought this "was a great way to think about risk." Wolf was "up there, floating around in what astronauts tend to think of as a relatively risk-free environment—although there are some risks—but he’s telling the people on the ground, ‘Don’t worry about me. You take care of yourselves, and I’ll be okay up here.’"

Along with his new crewmates, Wolf started work on a variety of projects, including the three-dimensional biotechnology tissue culture, optical properties monitor, and Canadian protein crystallization experiment—the latter designed to analyze the crystalline structure of 32 proteins in an effort to improve drug development and design.

David Wolf also explored his new world-above-the-world; and he wrote that in ways it hearkened back to the age of classic science fiction. "The central command post has keys that look like worn ivory. Leather shrouds serve where plastic would now be chosen. The metal machining is recognizably Russian, and of the highest quality. Its overall character brings forth the image of the ‘time machine’ from H.G. Wells’ classic."

Views of stowed items in the Mir space station Wolf mentioned "tables with things on both sides," "a bicycle with no seat," and "a set of heavy tools held in place by rubber bands." He also described the Soyuz escape capsule as "an amazing vehicle which comes straight out of Jules Verne. An absolutely beautiful piece of handcraftsmanship. Very ì˛ÚÌ˚È (OO yoot niy) [cozy] with wood-grained control handles and those beautiful ivory keys again. As I write, it waits, fueled and ready to bring us back to Earth."

View of control console and stowage items  Mir was, in ways, "cozy," according to Wolf; but in other ways, it was a mess. Wolf later related how he immediately offered to take full part in the housekeeping on Mir. "The first day, after the Shuttle left, I noticed Pavel cleaning up with rags … a large amount of condensate on the heat exchangers to the Elektron unit…. We had troubles—in fact, a complete failure of the condensation-removal system." Behind panels, "large condensate globs, bowling-ball size or beach-ball size sometimes … of gooey, slimy, ice-cold fluid [were] … starting to track down the structure and into the wiring."

Vinogradov repairs hardware in Mir Space Station Wolf went up to Vinogradov and said, "You never have to do this again." According to Wolf, the flight engineer "looked at me kind of funny. I said, ‘I’m doing it. Don’t worry. You’ve got better things to do up here.’ I didn’t realize what I was getting into, because it took anywhere from four to eight hours a day, the rest of the mission, every single day except a few. Nevertheless, I think that went a ways to their putting me on the team…. There’s no small or unimportant job on the space station. All of it has to get done, and that was the best thing I could come up with to free up their time." And, to become part of the team.

Survey view taken of the Mir space station On October 8, a new Progress resupply ship successfully docked to the station’s Kvant-1 module. The spacecraft carried 1.7 tons of supplies for the station, including science equipment, fresh food, 100 liters of water, and clothing and other personal items for the crewmembers. The Progress also brought up a motion control system computer to serve as a backup to the one that Atlantis had just delivered.

In a "Letter Home," Wolf described the Progress docking with Mir. "It was almost eerie to see the robot ship loom in out of the darkness. The view from Anatoly’s [Solovyev] tele-operated pilot station was as seen by the cargo ship, closing in on this amazing space station. Its computer mind correcting for errors in the cross-hairs on the docking target, just as Anatoly would have done himself. It behaved almost human. Anatoly’s hands were lightly poised on the remote control sticks, ready to manually take over at the first sign of bad decision-making by the computer pilot.

He and Pavel [Vinogradov] checked approach speeds and positions from the console. In their minds they had transported themselves and were sitting in the cargo ship…. As I watched their moves and words [and saw] how confidently they worked together from training and experience, my few thoughts of what happened to Mike Foale a few months ago were quenched." Then, "Thunk," the Progress docked. "It hit pretty firmly—which is normal. No pressure sensations in my ears. Docking mechanism properly engaged. The silence of tuned nerves was broken by laughter and handshakes. Supplies had arrived."

Wolf collected data during the undocking of the old Progress and the docking of the new Progress for the Mir structural dynamics experiment. This experiment measured forces exerted on the Mir by events such as vehicle dockings and thruster firings, and even the crew exercising. The crew performed routine maintenance on various Mir systems. They replaced batteries in the Base Block and in the Kvant-2 module with new batteries brought up on Atlantis; and they rearranged other batteries to ensure that the batteries were fully charged. They worked on the urine recovery system that provided water for systems. And, Solovyev and Vinogradov began their preparations for a second planned intravehicular activity (IVA) into the Spektr module. This IVA was designed to recover additional power from Spektr’s functioning solar arrays by restoring the array’s ability to swivel and track the Sun’s light.

The crew installed a new control unit on the Elektron oxygen-generating unit in the Kvant-2 module. The Elektrons in both the Kvant-1 and the Kvant-2 modules had been running simultaneously to increase the oxygen in the station in preparation for the IVA. In the Kvant-2 module, the crew installed a new drive unit on one of the gyrodynes. On Mir, eight to nine gyrodynes were needed to maintain attitude control; Mir was now operating on 11 gyrodynes.

After three weeks onboard Mir, Wolf reported life as "quite good. The air is extremely fresh and clean. Anybody who wants to work hard can find a lot to do up here. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to stay very busy." He said he had taken on the personal goal of keeping the air filters clean. "I plan to leave this station a bit better and cleaner than when I came."

Of course, the August collision with the Progress vehicle had severely damaged some of that equipment; and on October 20, Solovyev and Vinogradov conducted an IVA, suiting up to enter the vacuum of the Spektr module. During the grueling six-hour, 38-minute IVA, the cosmonauts had to be careful not to get tangled up in the disorder that was now filling Spektr. They were able to connect two power cables that increased solar power to Mir by 15 to 30 percent. Wolf stayed in the Soyuz capsule during the IVA, monitoring Soyuz systems and conducting Earth observation photography. The crew spent the rest of the week powering up Mir systems and modules.

American democracy was powering up on Mir as well. In late October, Wolf cast the first American election ballot from orbit, using an electronic mail system developed among Johnson Space Center, Mission Control-Moscow, and the County Clerk’s Office in Harris County, Texas. In an interview from orbit, Wolf said about his voting, "It’s important. It makes me feel attached to the ground like I didn’t feel before.

I feel it’s more important here in space even than I did on the ground. Voting’s important to all of us. It’s what puts the people in charge." Ironically, Russian democracy had beaten America into space. In June 1996, Shannon Lucid’s crewmates Usachev and Onufriyenko had voted in a Russian presidential election.

Solovyev and Vinogradov attempt to repair the damaged Spektr solar array In early November, Solovyev and Vinogradov conducted two more extravehicular activities. They replaced an aging solar array on the Kvant-1 module. The new array had been stored in a compartment on the Mir’s docking module since it was delivered on the STS-74 Shuttle-Mir docking mission two years before. Solovyev and Vinogradov also installed a device on the outside of the module that would enable the crew to hook up an additional Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system for the station.

During the first extravehicular activity, Vinogradov commemorated the 40th anniversary of the launching of the first Sputnik satellite by manually deploying a replica of the Sputnik. This effort was part of a joint project between Russian and French high school students. Wolf videotaped the event. He said later, "The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘God, I’ve got to get this video camera on it and get the picture right.’ But, after that, when I reflected on it—40 years is how long it’s been. I believe it was October 4, 1957, when the first satellite was launched by the Russians. And, you just look at where we’ve come in that amount of time. It was not much more than 40 years before that [that] the first airplane flew. And, I thought a lot about the pace of technology and how our lives are changing, and how NASA needs to be a part of designing our future way of life just as it was a large part in creating our current quality of life."

The extravehicular activity’s final task for Solovyev and Vinogradov was to retrieve a panel from an old and disconnected solar array on the side of the Base Block. The panel would be returned on Endeavour on the STS-89 mission in January to be analyzed for micrometeoroid damage.

The cosmonauts had a problem repressurizing the Kvant-2 module’s exterior airlock after the first spacewalk. For the second extravehicular activity, they used an interior compartment as a backup airlock. Then, they tightened clamps and latches around the circumference of the leaky hatch to hold pressure, the problem thus appeared at least partly solved. This was another example of the differences between short- and long-duration spaceflights. On space stations, many repairs have to be done "on the fly" instead of being brought back to Earth, as they are on the Space Shuttle.

David Wolf later wrote about his duties during one of the extravehicular activities. "My job was issuing the computer commands to the new array’s deployment mechanism, and something didn’t work. Now, we were ‘off nominal’ and ‘out of the checklist,’ [and] going fast, in Russian, and with [only a] short time left on the spacesuit carbon dioxide scrubbers." In coordination with Mission Control-Moscow, the Mir crew improvised manual procedures to command the solar array deployment. As Wolf wrote, "Retract two steps. Disable motion quick. It’s jammed. Try to re-extend by one step. What are the motor power indications? Is there a center-section deployed indication? We need to reinitialize the sequencer." And, all of this was done, Wolf wrote, "as fast as my fingers could press buttons and in Russian." After the experience, Wolf said he now had an answer for that repeating question, "What has been your toughest moment so far in the mission?"

Solovyev holds a water dispenser onboard the Base Block The week’s EVAs were Anatoly Solovyev’s 13th and 14th spacewalks in his five tours of duty on the Russian outpost. He had now conducted five spacewalks during Mir-24. Vinogradov, on his first spaceflight, had now made four spacewalks. With the two extravehicular activities behind them, the cosmonauts were given the weekend off to relax before resuming scientific research and routine maintenance activities.

Solovyev repairs damage to the Mir Space Station during an EVA Wolf was beginning his seventh week as a Mir crewmember. In an interview, he said, "I love space, and I’m getting a good dose of it here. It’s fun—everything from floating and flying to handling floating equipment. It’s a beautiful view. You never get tired of looking at the Earth." Wolf reported that when sleeping, "I dream that I’m in space. Last night, in fact, I dreamed I was with my friends and we were playing volleyball, and it was a wild game." While awake, Wolf said, "I’m surprised every time. I look up and I wonder how I’ll reach that—and then I realize I can just float up and get it. It takes a moment for that to register, so I’m not fully used to it. But, I get better at it every day."

Wolf also realized that he would have to re-accustom himself to a changed Earth when he went home. He said that after a Shuttle mission, "The likelihood of things changing in a drastic or significant way is small. Heck, you barely miss much of your mail. But, when you’re gone for months, … you really start to lose touch a little bit with the Earth." He was starting to feel like Mir was his world, and the Earth was beginning to feel a little "dreamlike." It was important "to be able to keep in touch with it—visually and through any media and means that you can." Video movies were particularly effective. They had more emotional impact under those remote conditions.

On November 13, Mir suffered a temporary power loss during a test of the newly installed solar array on Kvant-1. This caused the shutdown of the motion control system computer and interrupted Wolf’s scientific investigations. The crew transferred fully charged batteries from the Kristall module to the Base Block, and they restored power to five of the 11 gyrodynes that provide attitude control to Mir. However, the batteries alone could not support the many hours required to stabilize the station. So, throughout the weekend, the three crewmates alternated shifts to monitor systems; and whenever Mir drifted into an attitude favorable for solar energy collection, they temporarily powered up the battery chargers.

Meanwhile on Kvant-2, a slow air leak persisted in spite of the efforts by Solovyev and Vinogradov during the second spacewalk. The situation posed no danger to the station, as the hatch door on the instrumentation compartment behind the airlock provided an air-tight seal.

Wolf sorts microbial samples for Microbial Investigations of Mir and CrewDavid Wolf was now midway through his four-month mission. In an interview, he said that while the Russian space station was like a "fixer-upper" car in which things broke down, "you can trust it to take a long trip." He said that Mir was clean and in good shape. Then, he joked, "It could use some new carpet." Wolf also compared doing science on the Space Shuttle and on a space station. "One difference is in the laboratory," he said. "Right now, for instance, on the computer display, we are watching a laser image of a crystal as it grows. You can see the sides of the crystal as microgravity helps it grow, and we get to send these images down to the scientists on Earth.

We then listen to what they say and we make decisions and change what we do in response to the results. It’s more like a laboratory would be run on Earth; whereas on the Shuttle, it’s kind of a sprint race. You get up there [in orbit] and, in 8, 10, 12, 14 days, just do all you can. Here, we can plan and change the plan during the mission."

The American astronaut aboard Mir sometimes worked as a scientist and wrote as a novelist. In a letter, he described a view of Earth. "Ghostly outlines of continents just illuminated by the half Moon. At an unfelt five miles per second, we blow out of the Earth’s shadow and into the harsh unattenuated sunlight. Solar arrays alertly take notice and rotate precisely into position to capture a bit of this fortuitous energy. We blaze over that moving line on the Earth that separates night from day. The dominant features on the planet below are two tectonic plates. One holding the Tibetan Plateau and the other, India. The plates are clearly smashing together, incidentally elevating the Great Himalayan Mountain Range. Eyes now adjusting, looking real close, there, snow-covered Mt. Everest and Katmandu. It’s a rare clear day over France, England, and Italy. Hazy, even smoky, into China and southern Siberia. Some large smoke plumes, a lot of forest clearing going on there. Just ahead, to the east, the incredible blue Lake Baikal, perhaps the biggest lake in the world. Set like a gemstone into the Earth’s crust."

During the week of November 21, the crew experienced another power-down, this one resulting from a malfunction of the refurbished motion control system computer that had been brought up on STS-86. They replaced the computer with a new one that had arrived on a Progress. Wolf later remarked that the two periods without power, of roughly 48 hours each, "offered a unique perspective of spaceflight." With no systems operating, with no fans and no pumps going, "the incredible quiet of space was experienced. From the dark, quiet ship, the surreal experience of space was ever more intense."

Commander Solovyev was intent on restoring Mir to top condition; and soon after power was regained, the cosmonauts installed a new Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system in the Mir Base Block to serve as a backup to the unit that was currently functioning. An extensive amount of drilling, sawing, and wiring was required to fit this large system behind the station’s panels.

Wolf helped his crewmates with the systems activities and repairs, and he continued his science program. His favorite investigation was the Three-Dimensional Biotechnology Tissue Engineering Experiment, perhaps because of his involvement in its early development before becoming an astronaut. He later echoed other Mir residents when he said, "It felt good being back in the laboratory." The combination of activities led to very long workdays and, Wolf noted, "boredom was not a factor for this crew."

During December, Solovyev and Vinogradov spent time troubleshooting leaks in a backup cooling loop aboard Mir. They also released additional oxygen into the station from the tanks aboard the Progress, and they loaded refuse into Progress for its planned jettison from Mir before a new Progress resupply ship arrived. Christmas was approaching. The new Progress brought gifts from home as well as a small Christmas tree and traditional candy from the Red October candy factory near Moscow. The objects assumed that characteristic intensity typical of long-duration spaceflight.

The NASA-6 resident worked at measuring bone loss during long-term spaceflight. Studies had shown that long-duration exposure to microgravity causes a gradual loss in total bone mineral, a condition that mimics osteoporosis, which afflicts many older people. Wolf’s work with this involved critically timed injections of isotopes, many blood draws, careful dietary logs, and urine collections. By learning more about bone mineral loss and recovery in space veterans, researchers hoped to develop better treatments for those people who suffer bone disorders on Earth. Wolf also conducted an investigation to study the human body’s ability to produce antibodies in microgravity in response to vaccination. Previous research had indicated that some of the human body’s immune responses appear to be suppressed during long-duration spaceflight. In this case, the vaccination against pneumonia demonstrated normal antibody production.

Profile view of the Himalayan Range and Mt. Everest of Nepal with the Tibetan Plateau in the foregroundIn early December, Wolf’s flight received a five-day extension with the adjustment of the launch date of Endeavour (STS-89). The joint decision by U.S. and Russian officials to delay the launch of STS-89 enabled the Mir-24 cosmonauts to complete three spacewalks planned for late December and early January. The delay also allowed Wolf additional time to complete his science program on Mir.

In a pre-holidays interview on December 12, Wolf discussed how he was feeling onboard the space station. "After about a month, I was feeling extremely good; and after two months, I realized just how good you could feel in space. And, I’m feeling better and better every day, enjoying working in space more and more, learning to handle the difficulties of working in space better and better … although I miss home more and more." His hopes for the New Year included a world at peace, in which all the borders—invisible from space—would "mean less in terms of wars and the problems we have, and more in terms of helping each other." Commander Anatoly Solovyev spoke of meeting the New Year in a way "that cannot be duplicated on Earth … with the Australians first," because Australia was just west of the International Dateline.

He said, "A lot of people come out and want to talk to us on the [ham] radio and to wish us the best of wishes. This is a rather difficult time for us in that regard, but in general it’s also very pleasant. There is, apparently, no champagne here for us to celebrate the New Year, although there is, of course, the desire."

Wolf was asked about the possibility of his making a spacewalk with Solovyev. He answered, "You know that since I was nine years old … I’ve wanted to do a spacewalk…. We trained intensely before the mission. I continue to train onboard. The spacesuit is in itself a spaceship. It has all the fundamental systems of a spacecraft itself, and in a mission this long you need to study on orbit…. I’ll look forward to taking a lesson from this fine spacewalker."

On December 17, the Progress resupply vehicle, filled with trash for disposal, undocked from Mir and was commanded to stop a short distance from the station. A small German-built robot camera, called Inspektor, was deployed from the Progress for its first flight test. Inspektor was supposed to first circle the Progress to test its maneuvering system and navigational capability. Then, on computer command from the Mir cosmonauts inside the station, Inspektor was supposed to approach Mir and place itself in an elliptical orbit around the orbital outpost—to become, in effect, a satellite of a satellite. But, Inspektor’s star tracker guidance system overheated; and Mir’s crew reported that, through binoculars, they could see it was pointed in the wrong direction. The robot camera on Mir was abandoned after a malfunction. Russian flight controllers had to stop the experiment. Inspektor was allowed to drift away from the space station to later burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

That disappointment didn’t affect the Mir crew’s overall sense of accomplishment. Wolf wrote, "The whole team is really hitting its stride right now. This is what the space station era is all about. Taken together, the little efficiencies turn a 16-hour day into, say, 11. That sure means a lot at midnight when you want to float back and appreciate the adventure. Tolya [Solovyev] and Pasha [Vinogradov] are master craftsmen as they handle this ship. Occasionally Tolya, flashlight in teeth, will disappear behind a wall panel, tools and parts in tow. Hours later, as the sounds of drilling and wrenching subside, he emerges."

 Mir-24 crewmembers posing with a santa doll in a Sokol suit The holidays passed happily, but New Year’s Day reminded everyone that things could always change onboard Mir. The motion control system computer failed again; but, because the station was in a good attitude at the time of the incident, no Soyuz jet firings were required to stabilize it. The batteries were also in good shape, and no damage was caused to any systems due to shut down. However, during the recovery of the computer, all but the Base Block and the Kvant-1 modules were powered off as a conservation measure. The new Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system scrubber in the Base Block was also shut down briefly. The crew turned off both Elektron oxygen units, and they used oxygen-generating candles and oxygen from the Progress vehicle until the Elektrons were reactivated.

The entire crew also had to work on replacing a cooling system pump to keep temperatures in Priroda and Kvant-2 at comfortable levels. Temperatures throughout the mission ran well into the 90’s. Indeed, throughout the entire Shuttle-Mir Program, conditions onboard Mir were hot and humid. However, they were well-tolerated by the crews, who dressed mainly in shorts and T-shirts.

On January 9, Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov conducted a 5-hour spacewalk. They examined and photographed the leaking airlock hatch on the Kvant-2 module, and they retrieved NASA’s Optical Properties Monitor Experiment. Mir Astronaut Jerry Linenger had installed this experiment on the docking module during his extravehicular activity nine months earlier. Wolf monitored the spacewalk from the Base Block, and he photographed and videotaped the work conducted outside by his crewmates.

Later that week, finally Wolf had his own turn to try spacewalking. He ventured outside Mir for four hours with Anatoly Solovyev, the world record holder. Among other duties, Wolf sampled areas of Mir with a spectrometer that gauged the impact of the space environment on the surface of the space station. Wolf later called his spacewalking experience "spectacular."

However, during the spacewalk, Wolf’s spectrometer had a failure in its display, requiring intense coordination with Vinogradov inside Mir. As Wolf and Solovyev attempted to reenter Mir, the external airlock refused to make a totally airtight seal; and the atmospheric pressure, about 20mm of mercury, was too high for the spacesuits’ cooling units to operate but far too low to allow de-suiting. The two spacewalkers were forced to retreat into the emergency backup airlock, and the high workload in the absence of cooling led to a rapid increase in their suits’ internal temperatures. The airlock’s shape, combined with the fact that the suits remained stiff in the fully pressurized state, required the two partners to depend on each other to connect the backup cooling umbilicals. The "off-nominal" spacewalk served as further proof that multinational crews could work together in real time, in multiple languages, and on complex operational tasks.

Wolf’s four months in space came to a close in January 1998 when Endeavour (STS-89) launched on January 22 and traveled with Andy Thomas, the final NASA Mir astronaut, to the space station Mir.

Wolf and Solovyev in the Kristall module Right to the end of Wolf’s increment, challenges persisted for the Mir-24 crew, and the crew persevered in meeting them. Although Wolf and his Russian crewmates had essentially met for the first time in space—and had not trained together—a theme of teamwork and mutual respect characterized the mission. During the final two weeks, the Russian e-mail system went down altogether. The crew depended on this link for all written information from the Mission Control Center-Moscow. The crew now relied completely on verbal communications passes, which at this point occurred about five times a day for about eight minutes each time. The large amount of technical information transmitted in these passes severely curtailed all other forms of communication. As a result, Wolf did not hear about Earthly events, such as space pioneer John Glenn’s assignment to a Shuttle flight, until after Endeavour had docked when a reporter asked him for his reaction to it during a press conference. Surprised, Wolf turned to Shuttle Commander Terry Wilcutt for confirmation.

David Wolf returned to Earth on January 31, 1998. During his time on Mir, Wolf completed 36 scientific investigations in six disciplines, including biotechnology, fundamental biology, human life sciences, microgravity sciences, Earth science, and advanced technology research. In effect, a backup crew had been called up for duty and had successfully completed the flight program. The risk of persevering through difficult times was now paying off.

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| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Wolf Biography

NASA portrait of Astronaut David WolfDavid Wolf was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Purdue University and an M.D. at Indiana University. He served as a Flight Surgeon in the U.S. Air Force.

Wolf joined NASA’s Medical Sciences Division at the Johnson Space Center in 1983. He directed the development of a space bioreactor that resulted in state-of-the-art rotating tissue culture systems. He was also assigned as chief engineer in charge of the design for the International Space Station medical facility. Wolf became a NASA astronaut in 1991. He flew with John Blaha and Shannon Lucid on STS-58’s 14-day science mission in 1993.

While on Mir, Wolf completed an almost four-hour spacewalk and felt honored to gain this experience with veteran Russian cosmonaut, Anatoly Solovyev. He said: "When I was nine years old, I saw Ed White do the first American spacewalk, and it was that moment that I decided I’d like to be an astronaut and, in fact, I’d like to do a spacewalk as an astronaut. It was 31 years later that I did it. It was worth every minute of the wait.

"But I never dreamed it would be from a Russian spacecraft, in a Russian spacesuit, speaking Russian with a Russian who had been out 16 times, the most experienced spacewalker in the world, and that’s what Anatoly Solovyev is. So, it was a real first-hand lesson from the number-one guy in the field, and that was a privilege."

David Wolf remains a NASA astronaut. He is preparing for future flight assignments and working in the International Space Station Program.

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| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Weighing the Risks

Scenic view of Mir over open ocean, clous, earth limbOn September 25, 1997, the morning before liftoff of STS-86, NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin finally announced the firm decision to send David Wolf to Mir. Goldin’s statement underscores the reasons to fly and outlines the decision path that NASA followed.

Ever since becoming NASA Administrator in 1992, I have worked hard to make the Agency operate faster, better, and cheaper. The dedicated people at NASA have accomplished that, but never at the expense of our highest priority: safety. Today, I continue that commitment.

It is only after carefully reviewing the facts, thoroughly assessing the input from independent evaluators, and measuring the weighty responsibility NASA bears with putting any American in space that I approve the decision to continue the next phase of the Shuttle/Mir mission.

Tonight, the Shuttle Atlantis will launch, sending David Wolf to replace Michael Foale and to continue an American presence on Mir.

This is a decision that all of us at NASA do not take lightly. We share our fellow Americans’ deep concern for our astronauts’ safety. And, we have heard the calls of some who say it is time to abandon the Mir. We at NASA, especially Michael Foale, are deeply touched by this outpouring of emotion. However, we know the decision to continue our joint participation aboard Mir should not be based on emotions or politics. It should not be based on fear. Our decision should be based, and is based, on a scientific and technical assessment of the mission’s safety and the Agency’s ability to gain additional experience and knowledge that cannot be gained elsewhere.

In a status report from Michael Foale, he urged our continued participation aboard space station Mir and that David Wolf join the Mir crew. I have also spoken to David Wolf.

I asked him if he is confident in NASA’s safety review and if he thought we should go ahead. He answered with a resounding "yes."

As the person who bears the ultimate responsibility for America’s space program, I have been diligently reviewing the independent and internal safety assessments. I have concluded Shuttle-Mir has a thorough review process that ensures continued American participation aboard Mir does not put human life in unnecessary peril. Briefly, I would like to share that review process with you.

The first step in the review consists of a comprehensive, all-systems analysis to conduct the mission safely and successfully. Each major system and component critical to the crew’s safety and the mission’s success is reviewed and determined to be ready for flight. This review is led by Shuttle-Mir Program Manager Frank Culbertson. This step concluded last week with the final Shuttle Flight Readiness Review, a separate comprehensive review of all aspects of Shuttle mission readiness. This review resulted in unanimous approval to proceed with launch of Shuttle Atlantis to Mir.

The second step is an internal review led by Fred Gregory, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Safety and Mission Assurance. At the Flight Readiness Review, Col. Gregory gave his certification of Shuttle-Mir flight safety.

The third step is an external independent review by a NASA Advisory Council Task Force, known as the Stafford Commission. This step, as with the two previous, is part of each and every Shuttle-Mir mission review. Led by former Gemini and Apollo astronaut

Lt. Gen. Thomas Stafford, the review includes eight other non-NASA members. To address recent Mir problems, General Stafford took the unprecedented step of asking Dr. Ralph Jacobson, President Emeritus of The Charles Draper Laboratories, to head a smaller team and take a fresh look at this particular mission’s safety and operational readiness.

Yesterday, I was briefed on General Stafford’s and Dr. Jacobson’s reviews of Mir systems. They concluded "not only is the Mir station deemed to be a satisfactory life support platform at this time, but it is anticipated that significant operational and scientific experience is still to be gained through continued joint operations."

Lastly, when the Inspector General raised concerns about the NASA safety review, we added even another step to our Shuttle-Mir review process. I asked Thomas Young, member of the National Academy of Engineering, to lead yet another independent group of some of our country’s best to look at the Inspector General’s report. This group set out to find if there was integrity to NASA’s safety review process and to ensure no stone was left unturned. Mr. Young stated in his report to me, "The safety issues cited in the Inspector General’s report have been analyzed and assessed by the NASA Phase 1 team. NASA has an adequate safety assessment process that is complete and thorough. We found no safety concerns that were not being considered by the NASA safety assessment process."

In light of increased scrutiny and heightened emotion, I can assure you, this intensely rigorous internal and external review of the Shuttle-Mir analyzed—thoroughly—risk, readiness and, foremost, safety.

I will not trivialize the risks involved in human space exploration. Like all Americans, I know every time an astronaut travels to space there is risk. When we build the International Space Station we will encounter similar problems and there will be danger.

But NASA is ready.

We are ready because the reviews assure us. But, we’re also ready because it’s the right thing to do. Americans press forward.

We overcome the unexpected. We discover the unknown. That has been our history. That’s America’s destiny.

I love this country very much, and I feel privileged to serve with so many dedicated, talented, and courageous individuals. Today, more than ever, I am proud of everyone at NASA for their commitment to America’s future and for their service to humankind. And, to David Wolf, Michael Foale, and the rest of the Shuttle Atlantis crew … Godspeed. We’ll see you when you get home.


| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Who Went to Mir - and Who Didn't

Parazynski and Lawrence look out of the hatch of the Soyuz spacecraft In the words of the STS-89 Commander Terry Wilcutt, the Shuttle-Mir astronauts comprised an "all-volunteer force." Spending months onboard a former adversary’s orbital outpost did not appeal to all of NASA’s astronauts —nor did working as a "guest researcher" while speaking a difficult foreign language.

To everyone, it was clear that the assignment would require prodigious amounts of stamina, strength, and sacrifice. Also, some astronauts thought that a Mir assignment might take them out of consideration for future Shuttle flights.

Furthermore, those who did apply for Mir could not be sure that they would get there. As with all spaceflight assignments, Mir astronauts faced many potential obstacles—including health restrictions, program needs, and operational constraints. (As it turned out, all who were selected, but who were then later disqualified, got assigned as crewmembers on Shuttle missions to Mir.)

Norm Thagard’s backup, astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, remained active in the Shuttle-Mir Program, and she flew to Mir as a crewmember of STS-71 and STS-89.

Two other NASA astronauts actually scheduled to spend time on Mir lost their opportunities because of Russian size requirements. Scott Parazynksi was found to be "too tall" for revised limitations on the seats for the Soyuz escape capsule. He was able to fly later as a crewmember on STS-86, during which he made a spacewalk on the Mir-Shuttle complex.

Astronaut Wendy Lawrence was twice affected by size restrictions. First, she was found to be "too short" for the Soyuz seats. Then, after new measurements, she again became a "prime" candidate for Mir; so she trained for the NASA-6 mission.

However, one of the outcomes of the Progress vehicle collision was a new requirement that all Mir residents be qualified for extravehicular activity. Again, Lawrence was deemed to be too small—this time for the Russian spacewalking suits. David Wolf, her backup, bumped up into her slot. Like Bonnie Dunbar, Wendy Lawrence continued to contribute to the Shuttle-Mir Program.

She served as NASA’s Director of Operations-Russia and flew as a crewmember onboard STS-86 and STS-91.

The chronology shows Norm Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar were announced in February 1994. Shannon Lucid, Jerry Linenger, John Blaha, and Scott Parazynski were announced during Thagard’s flight in March 1995. Wendy Lawrence was announced in September 1995.

A month later, both Lawrence and Parazynksi were disqualified due to the size limitations.

Mike Foale learned about his selection in October 1995 and began training in January 1996. Wendy Lawrence was re-announced for a Mir residency in August 1996, but she was replaced by David Wolf in July 1997. The last Shuttle-Mir astronaut, Andy Thomas, was announced in October 1997.

Thomas’ backup, astronaut James Voss, did not get a Mir assignment of his own; but he was later selected for the second Expedition crew to the International Space Station.

Public attention is almost always on the astronauts, but Terry Wilcutt’s term "all-volunteer" could also be applied to nearly all the NASA employees who worked in the Shuttle-Mir Program. The same circumstances that required sacrifices of the astronauts required many on the Shuttle-Mir team to donate extra time and effort, both in Houston and in Russia.


| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Getting Settled in on Mir - A Letter Home from David Wolf

 Wolf demonstrates weightlessness with various items on the Base Block October 6, 1997

It’s a bigger job than one might think when every item you touch just floats off if you don’t Velcro it, or strap it down, or bungee it in place. Great—my long-lost and invaluable-electric shaver just floated by. The first place to look for lost items is in one of the air filters. A bowling ball would find its way there in zero gravity. Unfortunately, it’s an obstacle course on the way and a lot of items don’t make it all the way. One really learns, by the school of hard knocks, to work in little sequential steps. I keep finding myself with too many things in my hands and no way to put them down. Velcro is the lifesaver for—organization—but what about 150 film cans, 25 cassette tapes, 25 CDs, 40 sets of clothes, 7 cameras, 20 lenses, over 1000 components of scientific gear, 10 hard drives, 100 optical discs, 50 floppies, 2 critical PCMCIA memory cards (find them in all this), 4 watches, 6 computers (not counting the one we delivered for Mir—which is working flawlessly-knock on wood), 4 months of food, 30 packs of no-rinse shampoo, 60 more of body soap, razor blades, bottle of whiskey (just checking if you are still reading), and literally 6 tons more. The organizational/inventory task alone is daunting. Then come the radiograms instructing us to begin using all this.

I just found my razor a minute ago. Darn, where did that radiogram float off to?

My cubicle (really the airlock) has a view that is out of this world. I share it with three spacesuits. More later. Taking a tour of the air filters.


Read more letters from David Wolf

Read other letters written from Mir


| Recommitment to Mir | Wolf | Weighing the Risks | Who went to Mir | Letter | Meanwhile |

Meanwhile on Earth

NASA announced in early October 1997 that astronaut Andy Thomas would serve the seventh and final tour of duty by an American onboard Mir. Thomas had been in Star City since early in the year, training as David Wolf’s backup. Astronaut James Voss, who had previously trained as backup to Mike Foale, was assigned as Thomas’ backup.

In mid-October, cosmonaut Salizhan Sharipov, a Russian Air Force officer, was named as an additional crewmember for the Endeavour STS-89 mission that would take Thomas to Mir. Sharipov was a good illustration of the "new civics" in the territory of the former Soviet Union. He was an ethnic Uzbek who was born in Kirghizia, and he was now a citizen of Russia. His main role, during his first spaceflight, would be to assist the Endeavour and Mir crews in the transfer operations of the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission.

While Sharipov was training at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Thomas and Voss trained in Star City outside of Moscow. Thomas spent much of his time focusing on Mir systems and spacewalk training. He was also fitted for his Sokol suit, the spacesuit worn while in the Soyuz capsule during Mir fly-arounds and possible evacuations.

During November, Thomas continued spacewalk training in the Russian Hydrolab facility. He also took part in several hands-on sessions with science experiments slated for his stay on Mir; and he took a class to familiarize himself with the science program of French cosmonaut Leopold Eyharts, who was scheduled to accompany the Mir-25 crew early in Thomas’ mission.

On November 17, 1997, the United States and Russia announced the first four crews to inhabit the International Space Station (ISS). Their expertise was heavily drawn from Shuttle-Mir Program experience. Astronaut Bill Shepherd would command the first Expedition, and would be joined by cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko and by cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, who had been the first Russian Shuttle crewmember on the STS-60 mission in 1994. Shepherd and Krikalev had been named to the mission in 1996, and both had already been training in the other’s country’s space program. This first crew would inaugurate Phase 3 of the International Space Station Program (Phase 1 being the Shuttle-Mir Program and Phase 2 being the early construction Space Shuttle missions). Cosmonaut Yury Usachev, one of Shannon Lucid’s crewmates on Mir, would command the second ISS Expedition. He would be joined by American astronaut Susan Helms and by astronaut James Voss, the Shuttle-Mir backup astronaut for Mike Foale and Andy Thomas.

Astronaut Kenneth Bowersox was scheduled to command the third ISS Expedition. He would be joined by cosmonaut Mikhail Turin and by cosmonaut Vladimir Dezhurov, who had been Norm Thagard’s Mir-18 commander in 1995. (Although remaining as backup to Expedition One Commander Shepherd, Bowersox would be replaced in 1999 as the third Expedition commander by former Shuttle-Mir Program Manager Frank Culbertson.) The fourth ISS Expedition crew would be commanded by cosmonaut Yuri Onufriyenko, Lucid’s commander during Mir-21. He would be joined by astronauts Daniel Bursch and Carl Walz. Walz had flown to Mir on the STS-79 mission.

At the end of November 1997, Andy Thomas successfully completed his training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and was certified by the Russian Chief Medical Commission for his planned four-month Mir flight. Thomas and Voss then returned to the United States to conclude their training for Endeavour’s STS-89 launch.

As David Wolf spent his holidays onboard Mir, many of NASA’s people in Russia gathered to celebrate. Wolf’s Operations Lead Patti Moore later recalled it as a personal "high point" for her in Russia. She had dreaded being away from her family in America, but Flight Surgeon Chris Flynn’s wife, Alice, cooked Christmas dinner for the Americans in Russia. Moore recalled that another Operations Lead, Christine Chiodo, had "even made a little stocking for every single person there and had a little gift for everybody. We had a Christmas tree with presents under it. Even the cats got presents from Christine. All of that was very special, because you were away from home at a tough time. But, I don’t think anybody was really depressed. I think everybody called home and was happy to talk to their family…. But, we were all there together", we were all there together."

Next Chapter - STS-89: Last NASA Astronaut to Mir!