News on Mir:

TSE - The Space Experience

April 3, 1998

Russia bars reporters from listening to communications with Mir

Journalists will no longer be allowed to listen in on conversations between Russian Mission Control and cosmonauts on the Mir space station, officials said Thursday. The shift in policy came after a seven-hour spacewalk on Wednesday failed to accomplish repairs to the outside of Mir.

Reporters at Russia's Mission Control were able to hear occasional fragments of radio traffic between ground controllers and cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin during the Wednesday spacewalk.

The mission ended in disappointment as the crew ran out of time and failed to stabilize a badly bent solar panel, leaving the task for the next spacewalk, set for Monday.

When asked why the sound system was turned off, officials said it reflected a recent decision to keep reporters from listening in.

Pressed further, Deputy Mission Control chief Viktor Blagov cited problems with "unconscientious" journalists who allegedly exaggerated some of the Mir's past problems.

The decision to bar journalists from listening to the audio system comes at a time when the space station has been running relatively trouble-free for months.

Russian space officials intend to keep the Mir aloft until at least next year. The 12-year-old station was originally intended to remain in orbit just five years.

Four more spacewalks are scheduled during the first three weeks of April.

TSE - the space experience

Mir 24/NASA 6 Status Report

Mission Control Center -- Korolev, Russia

Friday, January 9, 1998

As of mid-afternoon, Moscow time, all systems aboard the Russian Space Station Mir were functioning normally after a spacewalk early this morning by Mir 24 Commander Anatoly Solovyev and Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov lasting almost five hours. The primary objectives of the spacewalk were to examine and photograph the outer airlock hatch on the Kvant-2 module and to retrieve NASA's Optical Properties Monitor (OPM) experiment which was installed on the Docking Module by U.S. astronaut Jerry Linenger during another spacewalk outside Mir last April. U.S. Astronaut David Wolf monitored the spacewalk from the Mir's Core Module and photographed and videotaped the work conducted outside by his crewmates.

The airlock hatch has not been holding pressure since a spacewalk last November by the two Russian cosmonauts. The science compartment in Kvant-2, just behind the primary airlock, has been serving as a backup for subsequent spacewalks. After beginning the spacewalk at about 2 a.m. Moscow time this morning (6 p.m. Eastern time Thursday), the crew examined the hatch, measured the gap between the seal and the hatch and began releasing latches. Solovyev noticed an apparent gap between the seal and the hatch door between primary latch 5 and 10. The crew noted that that appeared to be the only gap. The hatch has 10 primary latches and 10 secondary manual latches. Solovyev and Vinogradov also discovered that one of the primary latches would not properly move. During the previous spacewalk the cosmonauts were only able to close 5 of the secondary latches due to difficulty encountered in tightening each latch.

Four hours into the spacewalk, the crew closed the airlock hatch and began closing the primary and secondary manual latches. The crew reported that the latches were much easier to close this time. They successfully closed all the latches, and Solovyev and Vinogradov were back in the science compartment by 6:30 a.m. Moscow time (10:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday), a little over an hour ahead of schedule. The crew repressurized the airlock and science compartment. The airlock is currently holding pressure, but at least twenty- four hours is needed to determine whether the hatch will continue to hold pressure. Chief Flight Director Vladimir Solovyev reported that further analysis will be conducted to confirm whether the hatch problem has been solved.

Prior to completing the airlock hatch inspection, Solovyev and Vinogradov moved to the Docking Module to disconnect the Optical Properties Monitor. The device was placed on the Mir's boom crane and transported to the Kvant-2 module, where it was placed inside the station.

The OPM experiment has been collecting data on the long-term degradation of various materials by using three optical instruments. The instruments measure the thermal, optical, and mechanical damage of exposed materials. This data is expected to be used by engineers currently designing and building spacecraft of the future. The OPM will be returned to Earth aboard the shuttle Endeavour at the completion of the next joint U.S.-Russian docking mission, STS-89, which is scheduled for launch at 9:48 p.m. EST on January 22.

Another spacewalk is planned for next Wednesday, tentatively involving Wolf and Solovyev. The primary goal of this spacewalk would be to perform the Space Portable Spectroreflectometer experiment (SPSR). This experiment is designed to determine the effects and damage of the space environment on various locations on the exterior of the Mir station. NASA and Russian officials will jointly confer on Tuesday morning to reach a final decision on whether to conduct the spacewalk, and if so, whether Wolf will participate. He is fully trained to conduct the extravehicular activity, which would be the third by an American outside the Mir wearing a Russian suit.

Wolf is in the final weeks of his four-month research mission. Wolf will be replaced by U.S. Astronaut Andy Thomas, who will be launched aboard Endeavour on STS-89. Thomas will be the final American to occupy the Mir. He is with his crewmates today at the Kennedy Space Center in the midst of the dress rehearsal for the countdown leading to launch later this month. Solovyev and Vinogradov have been aboard Mir since August 7. They are scheduled to return to Earth in February after handing over Mir operations to a replacement crew, Mir 25 Commander Talgat Musabayev and Flight Engineer Nikolai Budarin. The Mir 25 crew is scheduled to be launched at the end of January with a French cosmonaut, Leopold Eyharts, who will represent the French space agency CNES on a three-week research mission. Eyharts will return to Earth with Solovyev Vinogradov.

The next Mir status report will be issued on Friday, January 16, 1998.

January 4, 1997


New problems have beset the Russian space station Mir. Mir lost its primary power system early January 2 when the main computer system on the station failed. The computer failure shut down the attitude control system, thereby depriving the station of power from its solar panels.

An ABC News report claimed the computer failure went unnoticed for several hours. The crew was asleep at the time of the failure and Russian mission control was operating with a skeleton crew during the New Years' holiday, according to the report.

In late December it was also reported that a large freon leak took place from one of the air conditioners. The air conditioner shutdown has caused temperatures on Mir to rise, exceeding 30 degrees Celsius in the core module at the end of December. Complicating matters was a failure of both Elektron oxygen generators and the Vozdukh carbon dioxide removal system, forcing the crew to resort to burning lithium perchlorate candles to generate oxygen. The Vozdukh system, was brought back online by January 2.

The failure of the air conditioner also meant the station's air was not being dehumidified as much as necessary. This caused excessive condensation of water in some of the colder parts of the station. The condensation is approaching "dangerous levels" in those areas, according to MIR News.

The recent problems with Mir have prompted Russian officials to delay a pair of spacewalks scheduled to take place in early January, see the previuous news below. In addition to the problems with the space station itself, a small remote camerasatellite that was to take images of the station's exterior failed shortly after it was deployed December 17. The Russian-German Inspektor satellite detached from the Progress M-36 spacecraft it was carried into orbit by. But it failed to orient itself properly and did not respond to commands. The satellite was to burn up in the atmosphere after a few days. There are indicattions, however, that it is in a stable orbit. It does not seem to threaten the station.

MOSCOW, Dec 30 (AFP) - Russian flight control said Tuesday it had put back for the fourth time a scheduled space walk aimed at repairing a faulty exit hatch aboard the ageing Russian space station Mir.

Mir commander Anatoly Solovyov and engineer Pavel Vinogradov will fit a new seal on the door to Mir's Kvant II module during a spacewalk on January 8, and will carry out another space walk on January 14, ITAR-TASS quoted space officials as saying.

Viktor Blagov, deputy head of Russian flight control, said there were more urgent matters to take care of on board the space station, including completing the installment of a new ventilation system to reduce humidity.

"Such a lengthy flight calls for continuous changes and there is nothing dramatic in these delays," he said.

Russian space officials insist that the leak in the exit hatch of the Kvant II science module does not threaten the rest of the space station's safety.

The module, which is separated from the rest of the station by other working airlocks, has been gradually losing pressure since two spacewalks last month.

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX p> October 23, 1997


Charles J. Precourt (Col., USAF), who has visited the Russian Mir space station twice before, will command the final scheduled Shuttle/Mir docking mission, concluding the joint U.S./Russian Phase 1 Program. The flight, designated STS-91, is set for a May 1998 launch on Discovery.

Precourt will be joined on the flight deck by Pilot Dominic L. Gorie (Cmdr. USN). Mission specialists for the flight are Wendy B. Lawrence, (Cmdr., USN); Franklin Chang-Diaz, Ph.D.; and Janet Kavandi, Ph.D.

Mission specialist Andrew Thomas, Ph.D., will join the STS-91 crew as he returns from a four-month research mission on Mir. Thomas' departure from Mir will bring to an end more than two years of a continuous U.S. presence on Mir, beginning with Shannon Lucid in March 1996. Thomas will arrive on Mir as a member of the STS-89 crew.

STS-91 will mark Precourt's third mission to Mir and fourth overall Shuttle flight. He was the commander for STS-84 in May 1997, the sixth Shuttle/Mir docking mission which returned Jerry Linenger to Earth and delivered Mike Foale to the Mir space station. In June 1995, he served as pilot on STS-71, the first Shuttle/Mir docking mission. His first flight was as a mission specialist on STS-55, the Spacelab 2 mission in April/May 1993. He is currently the Acting Assistant Director (Technical) for the Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX.

STS-91 will be the first space flight for Gorie and Kavandi, members of the 1994 astronaut class. Lawrence, who visited Mir in September as a member of the STS-86 crew, will be making her second visit to the Mir space station on STS-91. She previously flew on STS-67 in March 1995. Lawrence will bear primary responsibility for material transfer between the two spacecraft.

Chang-Diaz will be making his sixth journey into space, having flown previously on STS-61C in 1986, STS-34 in 1989, STS-46 in 1992, STS-60 in 1994 and STS-75 in 1996. He has logged more than 1,000 hours in space over five previous flights. Chang-Diaz, who has a doctorate in applied plasma physics, will support a major scientific objective of the mission as he works with the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer Investigation (AMS). The objectives of this investigation are to search for anti-matter and dark matter in space and to study astrophysics. The primary investigator for the AMS investigation is Nobel Laureate professor Samuel Ting.

The Phase 1 Program is a precursor to the International Space Station maintaining a continuous American presence in space and developing the procedures and hardware required for an international partnership in space.

For complete biographical information on the STS-91 crew, or any astronaut, see the NASA Internet biography home page.

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

October 15, 1997


Cosmonaut Salizhan Shakirovich Sharipov, a first-time space flyer, has joined the crew of STS-89, the eighth Shuttle/Mir docking mission.

Sharipov, 32, was born in Uzgen, Kirghizia. Selected as a cosmonaut in 1990, he completed training in 1992, qualified for space flight as a crew commander. Prior to his selection by the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Sharipov was an Air Force pilot and has experience flying the MIG-21 aircraft.

"Since beginning training in August, Sharipov has fully integrated himself into STS-89 crew activities," said David C. Leestma, director of Flight Crew Operations. "He is working with his crew mates to support all of the mission objectives."

STS-89 is targeted for a January 1998 launch to dock with Russia's Mir space station. Sharipov will be assisting the Mir and Shuttle crews in the transfer of logistical supplies between the two vehicles.

The mission will be commanded by Terrence W. Wilcutt (Lt. Col. USMC). Also on board will be Pilot Joe Edwards (Cmdr., USN) and Mission Specialists Bonnie J. Dunbar, Ph.D.; Michael P. Anderson (Major, USAF); James F. Reilly, II, Ph.D.; and Andrew Thomas, Ph.D. Thomas will remain on Mir to begin a four-month stay and continue the American presence, replacing David Wolf, M.D., who will return to Earth as a member of the STS-89 crew.

NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

October 10, 1997


Astronaut Andrew S.W. Thomas, Ph.D., has been named as the final U.S. crew member to live and work aboard Russia's Mir space station.

Thomas will launch aboard Endeavour as a member of the STS-89 crew in January 1998 to begin a four month stay on Mir. He has been training in Russia since January of this year as the backup to Dr. David Wolf, who began his tour aboard Mir on Sept. 28.

"Andy's assignment to Mir provides a great deal of flexibility to support crew activities on board," said David C. Leestma, director of Flight Crew Operations. "I have every confidence in his abilities. He will be a valuable addition to the crew."

Thomas, recently in the U.S. for science training to support his Mir mission, returned to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, outside Moscow in early October. Joining Thomas on the return trip to Russia was astronaut James S. Voss (Col. USA), who will serve as Thomas' backup. Voss has been training in Russia as backup to Michael Foale. Thomas will join previously named STS-89 crew members Commander Terrence W. Wilcutt (Lt. Col., USMC); Pilot Joe Edwards (Cmdr., USN); and Mission Specialists Bonnie J. Dunbar, Ph.D.; Michael P. Anderson (Major, USAF); and James F. Reilly, II, Ph.D. Wolf will return to Earth aboard Endeavour as he completes his four-month Mir mission.

Thomas' scheduled departure from Mir next May will conclude more than two years of continuous American presence on Mir, which began in March 1996 with the arrival of astronaut Shannon Lucid. Thomas will come home aboard Discovery with the crew of STS-91 in May 1998.

For complete biographical information on Thomas, Voss or any astronaut, see the NASA Internet biography home page.


Thursday, May 28, 1998
STS-91 Discovery launch from Kennedy Space Center.
Crew: 5 + 1 up, 1 down.

Saturday, May 30, 1998
STS-91 docks with Mir.

Sunday, June 7, 1998
STS-91 Discovery landing at Kennedy Space Center, returning 6 crew after 9 days in orbit, STS-89 mission specialist after 143 days in orbit.

Saturday, June 20, 1998
Launch of the FGB, first element of the International Space Station, from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Thursday, July 9, 1998
STS-88 Endeavour launch from Kennedy Space Center carrying International Space Station Node 1, Pressurized Mating Adapters 1 & 2. Sunday, August 2, 1998
Mir-26/Soyuz TM-28 launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Crew: Gennadiy Padalka (Commander), Sergei Avdeyev (Flight Engineer), and Cosmonaut Researcher (not named yet).

Tuesday, August 4, 1998
Mir-26/Soyuz TM-28 docks with Mir.

Monday, August 10, 1998
Mir-25/Soyuz-TM 27 landing, returning Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin after 197 days in orbit and a TBA cosmonaut-researcher after 8 days in orbit.

December 1998
Launch of the International Space Station Service Module from Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Thursday, December 3, 1998
STS-96 Endeavour launch from Kennedy Space Center carrying International Space Station Logistics Module.

Thursday, January 14, 1999
STS-92 Atlantis launch from Kennedy Space Center carrying International Space Station Z1 truss.

January 1999
Soyuz-TM 29 ACRV launch from Baikonur Cosmodrome carrying first 3 crewmembers to the International Space Station.

Wednesday, February 10, 1999
Mir-26/Soyuz TM-28 landing, returning Gennadiy Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev after 192 days in orbit.
(This will possibly be the last Russian government-supported mission to Mir, RKK Energia is promoting paid launches to the station complex.)

Information by Daniel James Gauthier

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