Science was a big part of Shuttle-Mir from the beginning. However,
in the words of Mission Scientist John Uri, "We knew that it was going
to be a crash course." Compared to Space Shuttle science activities,
which typically have 4 to 5 years of preparation, the Shuttle-Mir science
program was developed in 2 years and was then flown on spacecraft unfamiliar
to NASA and Russian scientists.
NASA scientists had enjoyed professional contacts with Russian space
scientists for years, going back to before the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project
of 1975. In 1992, Carolyn Huntoon, Director of Space and Life Sciences
at Johnson Space Center, headed a science delegation that accompanied
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin to his early Shuttle-Mir meetings
in Moscow. At first, the plan was to fly a cosmonaut on the Space Shuttle
and an astronaut on Mir, and life sciences would dominate their science
activities. Then in late 1993, the two governments agreed to expand
Phase 1, and other scientific disciplines were invited to participate.
"The program ballooned tremendously," according to Uri.
One NASA team, headed by Peggy Whitson, continued to concentrate on
NASA-1 astronaut Norm Thagard's life sciences investigations. John Uri
oversaw the overall Shuttle-Mir science program. NASA joined the international
Priroda module program and helped to support Priroda with experiments
and equipment. NASA outfitted another module-Spektr-with more than 1600
pounds of equipment, mainly for biomedical research. Charles Stegemoeller
headed up NASA's Spektr effort. Gary Kitmacher led the Priroda team.
The undertaking was an ambitious scientific and logistical task. According
to Stegemoeller, the science teams had to work nonstop. As John Uri
put it, "I don't think anyone's ever attempted that kind of a broad
program-on somebody else's vehicle, . . . across nine time zones, .
. . across a language barrier."
In spite of the challenges, Shuttle-Mir produced good science, and
good lessons were learned for the International Space Station. Norm
Thagard essentially flew as a guest cosmonaut researcher on Mir. Beginning
with NASA-2 Mir astronaut Shannon Lucid, the science program grew into
more than just a research program. It became a much more integrated,
international operation-much like the International Space Station was
going to be.
Also, as the Shuttle-Mir science program expanded across its disciplines,
NASA solicited outside investigators to submit proposals for experiments.
Hundreds of proposals were received. Along with the Russian co-investigators,
scientists from other nations-such as Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom,
France, Germany, and Hungary-participated in Shuttle-Mir science investigations.
As with other aspects of the Shuttle-Mir Program, progress and cooperation
occurred in fits and starts. Delays and other problems forced NASA's
science team to rethink, revise, and rework its program. For example,
when the launch of Spektr was delayed, a NASA science team was able
to place vital equipment on a Progress resupply vehicle. This vehicle
arrived at Mir in time to enable Norm Thagard to perform scientific
experiments until Spektr was successfully launched in May 1995, allowing
Thagard to expand his work even further. In June, when the STS-71 crew
arrived at Mir to pick up Thagard and his Mir-19 crewmates, Atlantis
carried a Space Lab module in its payload bay, and the Shuttle crew
conducted many experiments during the mission.
NASA-5 astronaut Mike Foale's mission demonstrated the sometimes sudden
growth of cooperation. As John Uri told it, the high point for him was
immediately after the collision. "From a science perspective, we were
practically dead in the water. We had no power. We had lost the [Spektr]
module where our life sciences hardware was. . . . And all of a sudden,
we said, 'This is Mike's flight. We've got two more [flights] after
him. If we continue the program, we'd better figure how to work around
him. How are we going to get through and finish the program as successfully
as we want?'
"So we all got together-on our side and with the Russians. There was
a Progress already scheduled to launch, 10 days after the Spektr collision
occurred. And usually, if you want to fly hardware on there, it's weeks'-if
not longer-process to get it there, and get it launched, and so on."
The Russians were accommodating. In 10 days' time, NASA shipped the
hardware to Russia, and the Russians shipped it to Baikonur. They put
it on the Progress, and it was on its way to Mir.
In sum, seven U.S. astronauts and 20 Russian cosmonauts did science
onboard Mir during Phase 1 of the International Space Station. More
than 150 "principal investigators" developed approximately 75 long-duration
investigations in seven major research areas: advanced technology, Earth
sciences, fundamental biology, human life sciences, International Space
Station risk mitigation, microgravity, and space sciences. Among other
activities, Mir crewmembers observed changes on Earth, grew wheat plants,
"fixed" quail eggs, and monitored their own adaptations to life in microgravity.
Many more investigations were performed by the astronauts and cosmonauts
who flew on the Space Shuttles that docked with Mir.
Advanced technology experiments in biotechnology, microbiology, and
pharmacology tested and validated technologies for use on the International
Space Station. One experiment that used a Russian furnace may ultimately
lead to more perfect metal products with longer useful lifetimes.
Earth observations by Mir crewmembers added 22,000 images to the approximately
300,000 Earth photographs already taken by U.S. astronauts. Mir crewmembers
documented long-term climatic changes, alterations in human land use,
and baseline conditions that led up to and through the 1997-1998 El
Niño weather phenomena. They also photographed more ephemeral events,
such as volcano eruptions and wildfires.
Fundamental biology investigations focused on plant and bird embryo
development, insects' circadian rhythms, and the radiation levels inside
and outside Mir. Plant experiments yielded the largest plant biomass
ever produced in space, as well as the first plants developed from seeds
produced and harvested in space.
Human life sciences investigations studied the effects of long-duration
spaceflight on the crewmembers themselves. These covered the immune
system, cardiovascular function, neurovestibular function, the musculoskeletal
system, regulatory physiology, the risk of developing kidney stones,
and the psychology of crew interactions.
International Space Station risk mitigation experiments used Mir as
a test bed for hardware, materials, processes, and operations that are
proposed or planned for the International Space Station. One experiment
studied micrometeoroid impacts on Mir. Another investigated how materials
and structures respond to long exposures to the low Earth orbit environment.
Microgravity science investigations were performed in fluid physics,
materials processing, combustion science, biotechnology and micro-accelerations.
A Canadian-built system used magnetic levitation to isolate sensitive
experiments from very small movements. A biotechnology experiment developed
spherical tissues difficult to produce on Earth. Proteins and crystals
were grown, using new techniques and their analysis by X-ray diffraction
and other methods may lead to advances in pharmacology and molecular
Space science experiments, externally mounted on Mir, collected both
extraterrestrial natural particulates and artificial particulates, which
result from spacecraft offgassing and the vented propellants from expended