Two Space Stations, Thirty Years Apart

Today’s space history installment shows how much the world can change …

Forty years ago today — April 19, 1971 — the Soviet Union launched the first space station, Salyut-1, from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. A Proton-K rocket carried the station to orbit, where it awaited the arrival of its first crew.

The Salyut-1 experiment did not end as well as it began, however. The first mission to reach the station, Soyuz-10, docked in April 1971 but the crew did not cross over into the station. The Soyuz-11 crew successfully inhabited the station in June 1971, but the crew died on re-entry when their spacecraft depressurized. Salyut-1 itself was de-orbited later the same year.

In the “how the world changed” department, 30 years to the day after the Salyut-1 launch — on April 19, 2001 — the Space Shuttle Endeavour carried a U.S.-Italian-Russian crew on a mission to the International Space Station.

(STS-100 launch. NASA image.)

STS-100 installed the remote manipulator “Canadarm-2” and the Italian cargo container “Raffaello” during ISS Assembly Flight 6A. U.S. astronauts Kent V. Rominger, Jeffrey S. Ashby, Chris A. Hadfield, Scott E. Parazynski, and John L. Phillips spent 11 days in space on the mission with Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni and Russian cosmonaut Yuri V. Lonchakov.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Fall of Mir

Ten years ago today — March 23, 2001 — the Mir space station fell to Earth.

(Mir, as seen from the Shuttle Atlantis on STS-71. NASA image.)

The first components of Mir were launched in February 1986, as I noted in this space history blog entry. The station remained in orbit three times longer than its design life of 5 years.

After more than 86,000 total orbits, Mir re-entered Earth’s atmosphere on Friday, March 23, 2001, at 9 a.m. Moscow time. The 134-ton space structure broke up over the southern Pacific Ocean. Some of its larger pieces blazed harmlessly into the sea, about 1,800 miles east of New Zealand. Observers in Fiji reported spectacular gold- and white-streaming lights. An amazing saga and a highly successful program finally had come to a watery end.

Now, as the main character in my first published short story* lamented, Mir and its predecessors are “rusting homes to fish instead of men.”

*To complete the shameless plug, you can add “The Rocket Seamstress” to your own made-to-order anthology of short stories on the Anthology Builder site.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Space Station Assembly: Leonardo in Space

Ten years ago today — March 21, 2001 — the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to the International Space Station.

(Sunrise launch of STS-102. NASA image.)

Mission STS-102 was also known as ISS Flight 5A.1, and delivered personnel and equipment — including the Italian “Leonardo MultiPurpose Logistics Module” — to the station.

The Italian Space Agency built the Leonardo MPLM, the first of several such modules which served double duty as cargo carriers and space station work areas.

The primary shuttle crew consisted of astronauts James D. Wetherbee, James M. Kelly, Andy S.W. Thomas, and Paul W. Richards. The “Expedition 2” crew, U.S. astronauts James S. Voss and Susan J. Helms and cosmonaut Yury V. Usachev, were taken up to the ISS; the shuttle brought astronaut William M. Shepherd and cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri P. Gidzenko, the “Expedition 1” crew, down from the station.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Making Human Spaceflight (Almost) Routine

Fifty years ago today — February 21, 1961 — the Mercury Atlas-2 (MA-2) pathfinder vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral.

(Mercury Atlas-2 launch. NASA image.)

Launched, of course, on an Atlas rocket, Mercury Atlas-2 flew a suborbital test profile “designed to provide the most severe reentry heating conditions which could be encountered during an emergency abort during an orbital flight attempt.” This was a precursor, of course, to the first U.S. human spaceflight, which would take place about two months later.

Thirty-five years later, human spaceflight had become nearly routine. For example, on this date in 1996, the Russians launched Soyuz TM-23 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the 25th expedition to the Mir space station. Cosmonauts Yuri Onufrienko and Yuri Usachev docked with the station on the 23rd.

And, for a little bonus space history: 30 years ago today — February 21, 1981 — the Japanese launched the Hinotori to study solar flares. It rode atop an M-3S launch vehicle from the Uchinoura Space Center.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Era of Mir Begins

Twenty-five years ago today — February 19, 1986 — the core module of the Mir space station was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

(Mir space station. NASA image.)

The first piece of Mir was launched atop a Proton rocket — an earlier model of the same type of rocket I saw being processed at Baikonur in 2002 — and over the years was joined to other modules to form the complete station.

As of the date of this post, the National Space Science Data Center page on Mir references a 1993 European Space Agency information page, but still presents some good information about the station. In contrast, this Wikipedia page has the full story on the space station, from this first launch until its re-entry in 2001.

“Mir” is usually translated as “peace.”

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Atlantis and Destiny

Ten years ago today — February 7, 2001 — the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from Kennedy Space Center, on its way to the International Space Station.

(Destiny module being installed on the International Space Station. NASA image.)

STS-98 astronauts Kenneth D. Cockrell, Mark L. Polansky, Robert L. Curbeam, Thomas D. Jones, and Marsha S. Ivins transported the U.S. laboratory module “Destiny” and installed it on the ISS.

And, speaking of destiny, 20 years ago today the Salyut-7 space station was de-orbited after nearly nine years of operations. The main character in my story, “The Rocket Seamstress,”* bemoaned its loss:

Where are Salyut and Mir, Mother Russia’s glorious outposts? Rusting homes to fish instead of men.

May we one day have outposts in space that are not in any danger of falling from the sky.

*The story appeared in Zahir in 2007, and is available now on Anthology Builder.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Space Station Assembly Flight Four-Alpha

Ten years ago today — November 30, 2000 — the Space Shuttle Endeavour launched from Kennedy Space Center on ISS Assembly Flight 4A.

(STS-97 on ascent. NASA image.)

Also known as STS-97, the mission carried a crew of five astronauts: Brent Jett, Michael J. Bloomfield, Joseph R. I. Tanner, and Carlos Noriega of the U.S., plus Marc Garneau of Canada. The shuttle crew visited the ISS residents (the “Expedition One” team) and installed solar arrays and other equipment on the space station.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Expedition One, on the International Space Station

Ten years ago today — November 2, 2000 — the first International Space Station crew arrived and took up occupancy aboard the orbital outpost.

(ISS Expedition One crew publicity photo: L-R, Krikalev, Shepherd, Gidzenko. NASA image.)

The Expedition One crew — William M. Shepherd, Station Commander; Yuri Gidzenko, Soyuz Commander; and Sergei K. Krikalev, Flight Engineer — had launched on October 31st from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, aboard Soyuz TM-31. They spent 136 days together on the ISS.

The ISS has accepted crew after crew since that time. You can see a “count-up” clock of ISS occupancy and get more information on this ISS page.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Building the Space Station, Bit By Bit

Ten years ago today — October 11, 2000 — the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from the Kennedy Space Center on mission STS-92, en route to the International Space Station.

(Z1 truss with communications antenna extended. Still image from NASA video.)

STS-92 was also known as space station assembly flight ISS-05-3A. U.S. astronauts Brian Duffy, Pamela A. Melroy, Leroy Chiao, Peter J.K. Wisoff, Michael Lopez-Alegria, and William S. McArthur, along with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, spent 12 days in space, about half of which involved adding the Z1 Integrated Truss and the third Pressurized Mating Adapter (PMA-3) to the space station.

The astronauts completed four EVAs during the mission:

  • EVA #1: 6-hours, 28-minutes — connection of electrical umbilicals to provide power to heaters and conduits located on the Z1 Truss; relocation and deployment of two communication antenna assemblies; and installation of a toolbox for use during on-orbit construction.
  • EVA #2: 7-hours, 7-minutes — attachment of the PMA 3 to the ISS and preparation of the Z1 Truss for future installation of the solar arrays that will be delivered aboard STS-97 in late November.
  • EVA #3: 6-hours, 48-minutes — installation of two DC-to-DC converter units atop the Z1 Truss for conversion of electricity generated by the solar arrays to the proper voltage.
  • EVA #4: 6-hours, 56 minutes — testing of the manual berthing mechanism; deployment of a tray that will be used to provide power to the U.S. Lab; and removal of a grapple fixture from the Z1 Truss. Two small rescue backpacks that could enable a drifting astronaut to regain the safety of the spacecraft were also tested.

The image below shows astronauts testing the SAFER rescue backpack.

(Astronauts Wisoff and Lopez-Alegria during the final of four STS-92 space walks. Still image from NASA video.)

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Atlantis in Orbit: Prepping the ISS

Ten years ago today — September 8, 2000 — the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched from the Kennedy Space Center on a mission to prepare the International Space Station to receive its first crew.

(STS-106 launch. NASA image.)

STS-106 carried astronauts Terrence W. Wilcutt, Scott D. Altman, Daniel C. Burbank, Edward T. Lu, and Richard A. Mastracchio, along with cosmonauts Yuri I. Malenchenko and Boris V. Morukov, on an 11-day mission to the nascent space station. They unloaded supplies; routed and connected power, data, and communications lines; installed equipment; and boosted the station to a higher orbit.

In other space history, on this date a half-century ago, President Eisenhower and Mrs. George C. Marshall dedicated the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailby feather