USSR plans next-generation space station

Buran at MirWith work having started mere days earlier on Buran, a Soviet version of the American space shuttle design, the Soviet Union’s space agency is given new marching orders to create a new generation of space station hardware, based on the experience gained thus far with the four Salyut space stations and their associated Almaz military space hardware. A modular design is chosen, with multiple docking ports and multiple station components launched over a period of time, concepts which will be tested with yet-to-be-launched Salyut stations. Frequently fighting with the Buran shuttle development program for money and resources (despite the fact that the two spacecraft are expected to be compatible), this new station will not be launched until 1986, almost exactly ten years later, at which time it will be known as Mir.


Mir launchThe Soviet Union launches the first module of its new Mir space station, a new modular station design building on the Soviets’ years of experience with the Salyut stations. One end of this “core” module is a six-sided structure, with docking ports on five sides; this design will allow new modules to be added onto Mir in all directions, and will potentially allow for several Soyuz or unmanned Progress cargo vehicles to be docked simultaneously, a design element which will later be carried forward to the International Space Station.

Soyuz T-15 / Mir Expedition 1

MirThe Soviet Union launches Soyuz T-15 on an unprecedented mission into orbit. Cosmonauts Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov become the first occupants of the newly-launched Mir space station on March 15th, where they remain until early May, at which time they undock the Soyuz T-15 vehicle from Mir and visit the powered-down Salyut 7 space station, becoming its final occupants until they return to Mir in late June, bringing several pieces of equipment and experiments cannibalized from Salyut back with them. The crew spends a total of 125 days in space, at the end of which Kizim is the most-traveled man in space, having accumulated over a year of total space travel time. Soyut T-15 is the last second-generation Soyuz vehicle to fly, returning to Earth on July 16th.

Soyuz TM-2 / Mir Expedition 2

Soyuz TM-2The Soviet Union launches Soyuz TM-2, the first manned launch of a newly uprated version of the Soyuz capsule. Cosmonauts Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveykin travel to the Mir space station, where Laveykin remains for 174 days before departing in July, but Romanenko sets a new space endurance record, remaining in orbit for 326 days. Romanenko’s return to Earth just before the end of 1987 marks the end of Expedition 2’s occupancy of Mir.

Kvant-1: Mir expands

Mir-KvantThe Soviet Union launches the first Kvant module to join with the Mir core module. An expansion originally devised for the Salyut 7 space station, Kvant provides additional working space and life support systems aboard Mir as, well as a gyroscopic stablization system to keep the station properly oriented without the constant use of engines and fuel. Years later, the basic Kvant design will be developed further in Russia’s contributions to the International Space Station.

Soyuz TM-3

Soyuz TM-3The Soviet Union launches Soyuz TM-3 on an eight-day mission into space which includes a visit to space station Mir. Cosmonauts Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Muhammed Faris (the latter of whom is the first Syrian space traveler) return to Earth at the end of the mission, along with Mir crew member Yuri Romanenko, while Alexander Viktorenko takes Romanenko’s slot on Mir. In order to leave the newer vehicle docked to Mir as an escape craft, the Soyuz TM-3 crew returns aboard Soyuz TM-2.

Soyuz TM-4 / Mir Expedition 3

Soyuz TM-4The Soyuz TM-4 mission is launched by the Soviet Union, en route to space station Mir. Cosmonauts Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov take up residence as the new long-duration crew aboard Mir, formally known as Expedition 3, and they eventually break all previous space endurance records by staying aboard Mir for exactly one year and one day, returning to Earth on December 21st, 1988. Cosmonaut Anatoli Levchenko, after the week-long overlap with the Expedition 2 crew, returns to Earth with Expedition 2 crew members Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Aleksandrov aboard the Soyuz TM-3 vehicle.

Soyuz TM-5

Soyuz TM-5Cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev, Viktor Savinykh and Aleksandr Aleksandrov lift off for a week-long visit to Soviet space station Mir aboard Soyuz TM-5. Numerous biological and astronomical experiments are conducted by the blended crew, and at the end of the week of joint activities, the Soyuz TM-5 crew use the older TM-4 capsule to return home, leaving the station crew with a newer vehicle.

Soyuz TM-6

Soyuz TM-6The Soviet Union launches the Soyuz TM-6 mission to the Mir space station, with cosmonauts Vladimir Lyakhov, Valeri Polyakov and Abdul Ahad Mohmand aboard. Lyakhov and Mohmand remain aboard Mir for only a week, participating in experiments involving both crews, but Polyakov, a medical doctor, remains on Mir to monitor the Expedition 3 crew in the final months of their unprecedented one-year stay in orbit. This crew exchanges spacecraft with the station crew, returning home in the Soyuz TM-5 vehicle after a week on Mir, but their return is plagued by problems both technical and otherwise.

Soyuz TM-7

Soyuz TM-7The Soviet Union launches Soyuz TM-7 to space station Mir, ferrying cosmonauts Alexander Volkov and Sergei Krikalev, and French spationaut Jean-Loup Chrétien to the station. Volkov and Krikalev will remain aboard Mir for 151 days, while Chrétien will remain for a shorter 24-day mission. Chrétien had visited the Salyut 7 space station on his previous spaceflight; his next flight, in 1997, will visit Mir again, this time by way of Space Shuttle Atlantis. Unusually, the return of this Mir crew will leave the station unoccupied for almost half a year.

Soyuz TM-8 / Mir Expedition EO-5

Soyuz TM-8Cosmonauts Alexander Viktorenko and Aleksandr Serebrov lift off aboard the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz TM-8, bound for the presently unoccupied space station Mir (which had been left without a crew since April 1989). At a distance of only 4 meters to Mir’s docking hatch, Soyuz TM-8 suffers a breakdown of its automated docking system, and Viktorenko has no choice but to back the Soyuz away and carefully dock under manual control. The two-man crew remains aboard Mir for 166 days, returning to Earth in February 1990.

Kvant stop now: Mir grows again

Mir / KvantThe Soviet Union launches the third Mir space station module, Kvant-2, to rendezvous and dock with Mir under automated control. With an airlock to make spacewalks easier, and additional living space and life support, Kvant also includes bathing facilities, water storage and reclamation systems (including a system to collect, detoxify and recycle human urine), and additional scientific equipment.

Soyuz TM-9 / Mir Expedition EO-6

Soyuz TM-9Cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev
and Aleksandr Balandin lift off from the Soviet Union aboard Soyuz TM-9, on their way to a stay aboard the Mir space station. Upon arriving at the station, an inspection of their spacecraft reveals that some of the Soyuz’ thermal blankets detached themselves during launch, though ground controllers decide against such drastic measures as cutting the mission short or launching Soyuz TM-10 early as a rescue mission. Solovyev and Balandin remain aboard Mir for 179 days, greeting the station’s next crew in August and returning to Earth without incident.

Kristall module docks at Mir

Mir / KristallThe Soviet Union launches the Kristall module, whose pre-programmed systems bring it to the Mir space station for an automated docking. With facilities for material science experiments, additional gyroscopic stabilizers to keep Mir properly oriented, and other equipment, Kristall also features an extended docking port intended to allow the Soviet-made Buran shuttle to dock at Mir. In time, that docking port will allow a space shuttle to berth at Mir… but not the one its designers anticipate.

This is the last expansion made to Mir prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the last new module to arrive for five years.

Soyuz TM-10

Soyuz TM-10The Soviet Union launches Soyuz TM-10, carrying cosmonauts Gennadi Manakov and Gennady Strekalov to space station Mir for a long-duration stay in orbit. After a 130-day stay aboard Mir, the TM-10 crew returns, bringing with them Japanese TV reporter Toyohiro Akiyama, who would arrive aboard Mir via Soyuz TM-11 in December. Strekalov will return to serve another tour aboard Mir in the 1990s, becoming the first Russian cosmonaut to arrive in a Soyuz and return home in an American space shuttle.

Soyuz TM-11: live from orbit

Soyuz TM-11Soyuz TM-11 lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Soviet Union, bound for the space station Mir. Aboard the Soyuz is a crew of three: cosmonauts Viktor Afanasyev and Musa Manarov, with Tokyo Broadcasting System reporter Toyohiro Akiyama, who transmits live reports from Mir for the duration of his week in orbit. (Akiyama will return to Earth with the Soyuz TM-10 crew.) Akiyama is the first space traveler whose seat has been commercially bought and paid for, a flight which ignites the “space tourism” industry built around buying Soyuz seats. Afanasyev and Manarov remain in orbit for 175 days, returning to Earth with British space traveler Helen Sharman in May 1991.

Soyuz TM-12: the first British astronaut

Soyuz TM-12Helen Sharman becomes the first British national in space, flying aboard Soyuz TM-12 to the Soviet space station Mir. Making her flight in a seat bought and paid for by a consortium of British commercial interests, Sharman tags along with cosmonauts Anatoly Artsebarsky and Sergei Krikalev, and she spends just a week in orbit before returning with Soyuz TM-13 cosmonaut Toktar Aubakirov. Artsebarsky and Krikalev remain aboard Mir for what is initially planned to be a five-month stay, though a shake-up in the flight schedule forces mission planners to ask Krikalev to stay aboard Mir even after Artsebarsky returns to Earth, resulting in Krikalev remaining on Mir for 10 months, not returning home until 1992 – at which point the Soviet Union will have ceased to exist.

Soyuz TM-13: the last Soviet space mission

Soyuz TM-13The Soviet Union launches its last space mission, Soyuz TM-13, carrying cosmonauts Alexander Volkov, Toktar Aubakirov and the first Austrian in space, Franz Viehböck, to space station Mir. After a week in space, Aubakirov and Viehböck return to Earth aboard Soyuz TM-12 with incumbent station crewmember Anatoly Artsebarksky, while Volkov stays for 175 days (alongside Krikalev, who will have been in space for 10 months by the time he returns to Earth in 1992). During Volkov and Krikalev’s stay aboard Mir, the Soviet Union collapses; they instead return to Earth as Russian citizens.

Soyuz TM-14: Russia in space

Soyuz TM-14Soyuz TM-14 lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, the first space mission from post-Soviet Russia. It carries cosmonauts Alexander Viktorenko, Alexander Kaleri, and Klaus-Dietrich Flade to space station Mir. Viktorenko and Kaleri remain aboard Mir for 145 days, while Flade returns to Earth with the previous station crew aboard Soyuz TM-13. When TM-14 returns to Earth in August 1992, Viktorenko and Kaleri suffer an unusual landing, with their descent module rolling to an upside-down position, trapping the cosmonauts inside until rescue crews arrive.

Soyuz TM-15

Soyuz TM-15The Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-15 lifts off from Kazakhstan, carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Sergei Avdeyev, along with French spationaut Michel Tognini, to space station Mir. Tognini remains aboard Mir for two weeks, returning with the Soyuz TM-14 crew, while Solovyev and Avdeyev are aboard for the long haul, manning Mir for 188 days before returning to Earth early in 1993.

Soyuz TM-16: getting Mir ready for company

Soyuz TM-16Cosmonauts Gennadi Manakov and Alexander Poleshchuk lift off aboard Soyuz TM-16, on a course for Russian space station Mir. In preparation for the upcoming joint international missions that will see American space shuttles docking with Mir, Soyuz TM-16 carries a new type of docking mechanism designed to test the docking port that will be used by visiting shuttles. Manakov and Poleshchuk remain aboard Mir for 179 days, returning to Earth in July 1993 with French spationaut Jean-Pierre Haigneré.

The International Space Station

ISSHaving drawn the European Space Agency and Japan into partnerships for the still-on-the-drawing-board Space Station Freedom project, NASA announces that it is reaching out to post-Soviet Russia, not just for ideas and engineering expertise, but to become partners in the new space station. With already-built modules sitting on the ground for a Mir 2 station that it cannot afford to launch and operate on its own, Russia becomes a full partner in what will now become the International Space Station. Plans are accelerated for proposed missions to dock the Space Shuttle to the existing Mir space station, and to use Russian Soyuz capsules for crew transfer and return.

Soyuz TM-17

Soyuz TM-17The Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-17 lifts off from Kazakhstan, bound for space station Mir. Cosmonauts Vasili Tsibliyev, Aleksandr Serebrov replace the incumbent station crew, staying aboard Mir for 196 days, while Jean-Pierre Haigneré returns to Earth with the previous Mir crew aboard Soyuz TM-16 after a three-week stay. When the crew leaves Mir in January 1994, their departure is anything but routine, as Tsibliyev is unable to prevent a collision between Mir and the departing Soyuz.

Soyuz TM-18

Soyuz TM-18Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-18 lifts off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on a mission to the Russian space station Mir. Aboard the Soyuz are cosmonauts Viktor Afanasyev, Yuri Usachov, and Dr. Valeri Polyakov, a medical doctor who will study the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the crew (including himself). Following a scary close call with the previous crew’s wayward Soyuz, the TM-18 crew settles in for a 182-day stay, with Afanasyev and Usachov returning to Earth; Polyakov remains aboard Mir, where he will eventually set the human space endurance record with a 420-day stay in orbit.

A close call at Mir

Soyuz TM-17The departing crew of Soyuz TM-17, cosmonauts Vasili Tsibliyev and Aleksandr Serebrov, board their capsule and vacate the Russian Mir space station, as planned. Ordered to take photos of the new docking assembly that will someday allow American space shuttles to visit Mir, Tsibliyev brings the Soyuz back to a close distance from the station, but complains of sluggish controls – just before Soyuz collides with the station, bouncing off of its outer hull twice. Mir’s newly arrived crew prepares to evacuate in their own Soyuz, but no critical damage is found to either the station or to Soyuz TM-17, which is allowed to return home. Tsibliyev’s luck aboard Mir will only get worse during his troubled second tour of duty on the station later in the 1990s.

Soyuz TM-19

Soyuz TM-19Soyuz TM-19 lifts off from Kazakhstan, on a mission to the Russian space station Mir with cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko and Talgat Musabayev aboard. Over the course of their 125-day stay, the crew joins Dr. Valery Polyakov aboard Mir, in the middle of his record-shattering 420-day stay in space. Malenchenko and Musabayev conduct 11 hours worth of spacewalks to repair Mir’s exterior insulation and other minor maintenance, and returns home in November 1994 with German astronaut Ulf Merbold.

Soyuz TM-20

Soyuz TM-20Russia launches the Soyuz TM-20 mission to space station Mir, carrying cosmonauts Alexander Viktorenko and Yelena Kondakova, and German astronaut Ulf Merbold, who will remain for only a month to conduct experiments in orbit. A glitch in the automated docking system forces Viktorenko to assume manual control for the docking with Mir, a problem which will plague future Mir crews. Viktorenko and Kondakova remain aboard Mir for 169 days, returning to Earth in March 1995 with the new space endurance world record holder, Dr. Valery Polyakov, who has spent 420 days in orbit.

Soyuz TM-21

Soyuz TM-21An American astronaut lifts off aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the first time ever with the launch of Soyuz TM-21, a mission to the Mir space station. Cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov are joined by astronaut Norman Thagard aboard Mir, where they remain for 115 days. During that time, they witness the arrival of the Spektr module, a new addition to the station, and they ultimately return to Earth aboard space shuttle Atlantis in July 1995; Soyuz TM-21 remains at the station, where a future Mir crew uses it to return to Earth. During the Atlantis mission, a new record is set for the number of humans in space, as the station and shuttle crews add up to 13 people in orbit at once.

Spektr: expanding Mir anew

Mir / SpektrFor the first time in five years, and the first time under the auspices of the Russian Federation, a new module is launched to expand the Mir space station. Originally devised as an add-on compartment to house experiments and equipment of a military nature, the Spektr module is, somewhat ironically, refitted to house American astronauts who will be joining future Mir station crews. Spektr also doubles Mir’s power generating capacity with its own solar panels.

STS-71: the shuttle docks at Mir

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on an almost-ten-day mission to dock with the Russian space station Mir. The first docking proves to be a chore, as the Mir crew has to move one of the station’s modules to a different docking port to accomodate the shuttle. The historic docking – the first joint operation between the two countries since the Apollo-Soyuz mission almost exactly 20 years earlier – results in the largest man-made object in space to date. Aboard Atlantis are Commander Robert Gibson, Pilot Charles Precourt, and mission specialists Ellen Baker, Bonnie Dunbar and Gregory Harbaugh; cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Nikolai Budarin are transported to Mir aboard Atlantis to become part of Mir Expedition 19, while Expedition 18 crew members Norman Thagard, Vladimir Dezhurov and Gannady Strekalov return to Earth after more than three months aboard Mir.

STS-74: Atlantis returns to Mir

Space ShuttleNASA launches Space Shuttle Atlantis on the 73rd shuttle flight, an eight-day mission to dock with Russian space station Mir. Due to the docking difficulties of the first flight – which required Mir crew members to move one of their station’s modules out of the shuttle’s way temporarily – Atlantis carries a Russian-made docking adapter which adds a tunnel to one of Mir’s docking ports, allowing the shuttle to join up with the station without further module relocation. Atlantis carries Commander Kenneth Cameron, Pilot James Halsell, and mission specialists Jerry Ross, William McArthur and Chris Hadfield to visit Mir; there is no crew exchange on this flight.

STS-76: third Shuttle-Mir docking

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 76th shuttle mission, a flight to dock with the Russian space station Mir. Supplies are delivered to Mir by the Atlantis crew, and astronaut Shannon Lucid remains aboard Mir to join its Expedition 21 crew. Atlantis also carries the SPACEHAB module, where both the shuttle and station crews conduct joint scientific experiments. Aboard Atlantis for her 16th flight are Commander Kevin Chilton, Pilot Richard Searfoss, and mission specialists Shannon Lucid, Linda Godwin, Michael Clifford and Ronald Sega.

Soyuz TM-24

Soyuz TM-24Soyuz TM-24 is launched from Russia, on a mission to dock with the Mir space station. Aboard are cosmonauts Valery Korzun and Aleksandr Kaleri, who stay aboard Mir for 196 days, and visiting French spationaut Claudie André-Deshays, the first French woman in space, who stays aboard Mir for 16 days before returning to Earth with the station’s previous crew aboard Soyuz TM-23. Korzun and Kaleri will return to Earth in March 1997.

STS-79: fourth Shuttle-Mir mission

Space ShuttleAfter multiple delays, including the entire launch stack having to be rolled back into the safety of the Vehicle Assembly Building to protect it from two back-to-back hurricanes, Space Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the fourth mission to dock with the Russian Mir space station. Supplies are transferred to Mir, and numerous completed science experiments from Mir are loaded into the shuttle. Atlantis is flown by Commander William Readdy, Pilot Terrence Wilcutt, and mission specialists Thomas Akers, John Blaha, Jay Apt and Carl Walz. Blaha remains on Mir, taking the place of American astronaut Shannon Lucid, who has just set a new American space endurance record of 188 days in orbit; Lucid returns to Earth with the Atlantis crew.

Soyuz TM-25

Soyuz TM-25Russian cosmonauts Vasili Tsibliyev and Aleksandr Lazutkin lift off aboard Soyuz TM-25 for an eventful mission aboard Russian space station Mir. Tagging along is German space traveler Reinhold Ewald, who will remain in space for 19 days before returning to Earth with Mir’s previous crew aboard Soyuz TM-24; Tsibliyev and Lazutkin will later be joined by American shuttle astronaut Jerry Linenger. Their 184-day stay is marred by numerous emergencies aboard the station, ranging from a fire in the station’s cramped quarters to a collision with an unmanned Progress cargo spacecraft, which Russian ground controllers are initially eager to keep quiet from the rest of the world.

Mir: Fire on high

The Mir fireFire breaks out aboard the Russian space station Mir, forcing the crew to break out face masks and goggles which they must keep on even after the fire is put out. The culprit is determined to be an oxygen generator, which is damaged beyond repair; fortunately, American crewmember Jerry Linenger is a medical doctor and determines that he and his crewmates are none the worse for wear. A new oxygen generator will arrive on the next Space Shuttle mission to Mir later in the year.

A near-Mir-miss

MirCrew members of space station Mir and Russian ground controllers practice manual remote control of an unmanned Progress supply vehicle near the station. Where most previous Progress spacecraft have automatically docked using the KURS radar system, Russia is now seeking alternatives, as the Ukraine-made KURS hardware is proving too expensive to keep buying for non-reusable vehicles. During Mir Commander Vasily Tsibliev’s attempt to redock Progress M33, the remote control signal is interrupted, leaving the ten-ton Progress barreling toward the station. Fortunately, it narrowly misses Mir, though the remote control issue will resurface more dramatically with the next Progress craft to visit the space station.

STS-84: sixth Shuttle-Mir docking

Space ShuttleSpace Shuttle Atlantis lifts off on the 84th shuttle mission, a ten-day flight with a visit to the Mir space station. Among the supplies hauled to Mir by Atlantis is a new oxygen generator to replace one damaged by a fire aboard the station in February. The crew for Atlantis’ 18th flight is Commander Charles Precourt, Pilot Eileen Collins, mission specialists Michael Foale, Carlos Noriega, Edward Lu, Jean-Francois Clervoy and cosmonaut Elena Kondakova. Foale remains to take up residence on Mir, while American astronaut Jerry Linenger leaves the station to return with the shuttle crew, having spent 132 days in space.