February 1994 to March 1995
The launch of Discovery (STS-60) on February 3, 1994, shifted
Shuttle-Mir into a higher gear. The United States and Russia began the
operational phase of the program, with cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev flying
as a crewmember of a Space Shuttle. A future Shuttle mission, STS-63,
would be reconfigured to include a rendezvous—but no docking—with the
Mir Space Station.
On Earth, events were moving quickly, too. On the same day that Krikalev
launched on STS-60, astronauts Norm Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar were announced
as the first NASA astronauts to go to Russia to train for a flight on
Mir. Thagard was the prime candidate, with Dunbar as backup. They would
train, often side by side, at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center
in Star City, Russia.
The next day, February 4, began the first meetings of "Team Zero"—the
first of ten working groups staffed by U.S. and Russian counterparts-experts
from NASA, the Russian Space Agency, Energia, the Institute for Biomedical
Problems, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, and other organizations
and companies. These working groups were organized on the model of the
Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Their structure divided mission planning
and execution into different functions, including management, cargo
and scheduling, public affairs, safety, operations, science, training,
integration, extravehicular activities, and medicine. Each nation designated
for each group a cochair, who facilitated joint meetings (usually weekly
via teleconference, and occasionally face-to-face). Cochairs were authorized
to sign protocols, documenting agreements made within their purview.
Working group members generally came to trust each other and work well
together, finding common ground in shared interests and humor. The Russian
Shuttle-Mir Manager, Valery Ryumin, was heard to joke that the management
group was called Working Group Zero because "Managers don’t do
more about NASA's Public Affairs Office
On February 23, NASA’s Office of Life Sciences and Microgravity Science
Applications began soliciting the scientific community for investigations
to be carried out by astronauts onboard Mir. On the same day, astronaut
Ken Cameron, who would later command Atlantis (STS-74) on a mission
to Mir, was announced as NASA’s first Director of Operations-Russia.
Cameron, his fellow astronauts Norm Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar, along
with Flight Surgeons Dave Ward and Mike Barratt left the same day for
Star City, Russia.
In May, NASA and Russian Space Agency negotiating teams met in both
Houston and Moscow. Also in May, the first meeting of the Task Force
on the Shuttle-Mir Rendezvous and Docking Missions was held at the Johnson
Space Center. The NASA Advisory Council created this task force—often
called the Stafford Committee for its chairman, Apollo-Soyuz Commander
Tom Stafford—to review Shuttle-Mir planning, management, training, operations,
and rendezvous and docking and to make recommendations.
In June, Randy Brinkley, NASA’s Space Station Program Manager, delegated
Shuttle-Mir management to the Space Shuttle Program. Director of Space
Shuttle Operations Brewster Shaw announced the creation of a Phase 1
Management Group, with Tommy Holloway of the Space Shuttle Program Office
as its chairperson. According to Tom Cremins, who would become NASA’s
Deputy Assistant to the Director in Russia during Phase 1, "Tommy
had a real small staff. I remember going to some of his meetings, and
there were probably five or six direct staff." The group put together
a "roles and responsibilities" document, organizing Phase
1 of the International Space Station Program. This would also be known
On June 23, 1994, Vice President Gore and Russian Foreign Minister
Chernomyrdin met again in Washington, D.C. There, the two countries’
space agency chiefs—Daniel S. Goldin and Yuri Koptev—signed a "Definitized
Contract" between the Russian Space Agency and NASA, which Gore
and Chernomyrdin jointly announced. The contract provided for: $400
million in U.S. expenditures; up to 21 additional months of flight time
aboard Mir for U.S. astronauts; up to nine more Shuttle dockings with
Mir after STS-71; a docking module to permit repeated Shuttle dockings
with Mir; the use of the Russian modules Spektr and Priroda for U.S.
experiments; a joint U.S.-Russian research program onboard Mir; joint
technology development; and the extension of Mir’s lifetime beyond 1995—to
allow time for U.S.-Mir operations.
Tom Cremins later commented on some of the non-space-related motivations
behind America’s financial stake in the new Russia. "A lot of it
was directly related to trying to discourage Russian scientists and
engineers from leaving the country and working for folks who didn’t
necessarily have a … good global interest … as well as to discourage
some sales that were going on at that time; for example, the sale of
rocket technology to India." According to Cremins, the United States
was "trying to create a positive venue for Russia and us, to be
working in a nonthreatening manner. So, that was really what generated—at
the top level—a lot of the support for doing the flights to Mir."
On October 3, 1994, a Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur space
complex, carrying Mir Principal Expedition-17 Cosmonauts Aleksandr Viktorenko,
Elena Kondakova, and Valeri Polyakov. These cosmonauts would greet Norm
Thagard and his Mir-18 crewmates when they docked with the space station
in March 1995.
NASA’s Shuttle-Mir Program became a formal stand-alone program on October
6, 1994, when the NASA Associate Administrator for Spaceflight, Jeremiah
Pearson III, signed a letter establishing the program plan and officially
appointing Tommy Holloway as Manager.
Despite the injection of U.S. funds into the Russian economy, the Russian
government was in danger of financial ruin. On October 11, 1994, the
ruble collapsed. On November 2, Valery Ryumin informed Tommy Holloway
that launch targets for the Priroda and Spektr modules would not be
met. (Spektr would eventually be launched on May 20, 1995, while Norm
Thagard was onboard Mir. Priroda would launch nearly a year later, on
April 23, 1996, when Shannon Lucid was a Mir resident.)
Between November 3 and 14, 1994, tools, devices, and procedures planned
for use on Shuttle-Mir missions were tested on STS-66. In December,
Gore and Chernomyrdin agreed to the formation of a Joint Medical Policy
Board to coordinate development of a common system of medical support
for Shuttle-Mir. They also signed a customs agreement providing for
duty-free clearance of NASA’s Shuttle-Mir supplies shipped to Russia.
Regardless of the agreements, early in the Shuttle-Mir Program almost
everything was difficult. This included getting funds to managers in
Russia where society remained in a deep governmental and economic crisis,
according to NASA manager Travis Brice, who worked on Shuttle-Mir training,
communications, and coordination. When Johnson Space Center (JSC) managers
needed to get funds to their Star City office, they first had to transfer
money to NASA Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., which then transferred
the money to the U.S. State Department. According to Brice, "Then
the State Department transferred [the money] over to the Paris Embassy….
The Paris Embassy then transferred it to the Moscow Embassy. The Moscow
Embassy then transferred it to our Moscow NASA Office, who then gave
the money—in cash, because that was the way the Russian society worked—to
our Director of Operations-Russia in Star City…. It typically had a
two-month lag in it."
In January 1995, Norm Thagard and Bonnie Dunbar were joined by astronauts
Shannon Lucid and John Blaha, who reported to Star City to begin their
The early days in Star City have been compared to living in a monastery
and included problems with communications, language, supply, and support.
Besides the operational growing pains, there were also culture deprivation
and loneliness. Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar later spoke of her "little
support group" of Russian women at Star City, including "Olga
… [who] taught technical English at an institute in downtown Moscow.
A tremendously warm, nice woman…. She took me on tours of Star City,
before we ever had maps, and showed me where everything was, all the
little nooks and crannies to buy food. And, Galena," an engineer
in Building 2, who, "particularly if I was by myself, would open
the door to the hall and pull me inside. It was like disappearing into
the bowels of the building. And, we’d have tea with her colleagues there."
Another Russian especially helpful to the Americans in Star City was
Natasha Dorishenko, hired as an administrative assistant. According
to Bill Readdy, Director of Operations-Russia, Dorishenko was "absolutely
spectacular" at bridging the gap between the different cultures
and agencies, and in helping physically to set up the NASA offices in
Also "spectacular" in her dedication and contributions to
the Shuttle-Mir Program was American Jessie Gilmore, executive secretary
to Program Manager Frank Culbertson. Gilmore coordinated the Phase 1
Office in Houston and, according to Culbertson, made the whole Russian-American
relationship in Houston seem like a family.
"Everybody here kind of worked together as a family," Jessie
Gilmore said. "It wasn’t an eight-to-four job. If [Culbertson]
needed something—nine, ten o’clock at night—he could call anybody, and
they came in and got it done."
Susan Anderson, Lindy Fortenberry, and other program support specialists
worked to make the NASA side of the Shuttle-Mir Program succeed. They
escorted visiting Russians, scheduled and rescheduled meetings, and
even worked to make it possible for astronauts to vote from orbit.