Shuttle-Mir Stories

Mission specialist John Blaha (not in frame) photographs his fellow Mir 22 cosmonauts - Mir 22 commander Valeri Korzun and flight engineer Aleksandr Kaleri - in their Russian liquid cooling and ventilation garments while they prepare for an extravehicular activity (EVA).

Blaha on EVAs

Two spacewalks were performed during U.S. Mir astronaut John Blaha's residency on Mir. Blaha describes these EVAs in a Mir-22 mission summary:

"[In] December the Mir-22 Crew prepared and performed two space walks. Valeri [Korzun] and Sasha [Alexander Kaleri] walked in space while I remained inside the Mir. The goal of one space walk was to disconnect electrical cables from an 11-year-old solar panel on the base block; connect these power cables to an extension cable; then connect the other end of the extension cable to a new solar panel on the Kvant-1 module. The 11-year-old base block solar panel had lost a lot of efficiency.

"The goal of the second space walk was to place a new antenna on the end of the Kristall module. This antenna would allow rendezvous with a Progress or a Soyuz vehicle without having to maneuver the Mir Space Station into a special rendezvous attitude.

"I will forever have images implanted in my brain of Valeri and Sasha working 18 hour days, preparing for the space walks, asking many questions to specialists on Earth, and probing every possible scenario. I will forever remember the incredible views of these two cosmonauts floating in space, silhouetted against the black of space, with planet Earth rotating by us below. I will forever remember the sounds of strain in their breathing when the workload was intense. And finally, I will never forget the incredible feeling of accomplishment after the job was complete, and everyone was safely inside the Mir Space Station.

"Four days prior to the space walks we started preparing, rehearsing, and verifying all of our procedures and actions. Valeri and Sasha spent a lot of time in the airlock located in the Kvant-2 Module. I spent time in the base block, Soyuz, Kvant, and Kvant-2 reviewing computer displays, switches, panels, checklists, etc., that I would use during the space walk. I also prepared two video cameras and one 35mm camera that I would use to document the activities of Valeri and Sasha. I thought about where Valeri and Sasha would be located at various times throughout the space walk, and planned which windows would be best to obtain good photography. I also spent some time thinking through my actions in case there was a malfunction with any of the life support systems of the Mir, a fire, or an atmosphere leak. When the day of the space walk arrived we were all very confident and prepared.

"Valeri and Sasha entered the airlock, closed the hatch, donned their space suits, depressurized the airlock, and opened the outer hatch. Sasha and Valeri then used a pole (the Russians call this system Strella) to transport themselves from the end of the Kvant module to the base block. They began the difficult task of locating the correct connectors, disconnecting power lines, and connecting the extension cord. Then they took the other end of the extension cord across to the Kvant module and connected it to the new solar panels that had been installed in May. I was able to film this activity through a small (12-inch diameter) window in the Kristall. I also had installed an extension cord to my communication equipment so that I could talk with them and to the Russian Control Center. Every now and then I would go to the base block and enter commands into the computer or recover information the Russian Control Center needed. Valeri and Sasha worked very hard on this space walk which lasted six hours. I was very proud of their hard work and attention to every detail. After they completed the space walk, we celebrated with lots of great food, conversation, and downlinked the video to the Russian Control Center. All were in a great mood. We later realized that during the space walk the connector to our amateur radio antenna had been inadvertently disconnected. No problem, we just added the reconnection of the antenna cable as a second task in the next space walk.

"We prepared for the second space walk just like we had prepared for the first space walk. On this space walk Sasha translated down the pole to the base block. Then Valeri climbed onto the end of the pole, and Sasha moved the pole (with Valeri on the end) across the open space to the end of the Kristall Module. I filmed all of this activity from a small 9-inch window inside Sasha's living compartment. Valeri then mounted the pole to the end of the Kristall module and Sasha climbed across to join Valeri. Four hours later they completed the difficult task of mounting this new antenna, and connecting the electrical hookups to a panel on the outer surface of the Kristall. This was very difficult because they were working a lot with little screws and bolts. This type of task is very difficult inside a bulky space suit. I could tell by the tone of their voices that they were both very tired as they started to transfer back across the pole to the base block.

"Then they connected the amateur radio antenna and I verified that we had good transmission and reception on our radio. Valeri and Sasha then climbed back on the pole and slowly moved back to the airlock entrance of the Kvant-2 module. They secured the hatch and repressurized the airlock. Then they opened the inner hatch to the Mir and the celebration started. Warm food, good drink, great music, and a lot of incredible conversation.

Related Links:
Blaha Increment
Profile: John Blaha
John Blaha Oral History (PDF)

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