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Shuttle Flights & Mir Increments - STS-71: First Docking

June 27 - July 7, 1995

Space Shuttle: Atlantis

Crew: Gibson, Precourt, Ellen Baker, Harbaugh, Dunbar

Embarking to Mir - Mir 19 Crew: Solovyev, Budarin

Returning from Mir - Mir-18 Crew: Dezhurov, Strekalov, Thagard

STS-71 marked the 100th U.S. human space launch; the first docking of the space shuttle with Mir; the largest combined spacecraft ever in orbit; and the first shuttle changeout of a Mir crew. For the docking, Commander Hoot Gibson positioned Atlantis directly below Mir, so that the Earth's gravity naturally braked the orbiter's approach "up" to Mir. The final approach rate of about an inch per minute ended 216 nautical miles above Russia's Lake Baykal region, with a nearly perfect docking, off by less than one inch and one half a degree.

Together, Atlantis and Mir totaled almost one-half million pounds. After the welcoming ceremony and transfer of responsibilities from the Mir-18 to the Mir 19 crew, joint operations included scientific investigations in the shuttle's Spacelab module (cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolism, neuroscience, hygiene, sanitation, radiation, biology, and microgravity). The Mir-18 crew also exercised intensively to prepare for re-entry and gravity after more than three months in space.

Materials transferred to Atlantis included: urine, saliva, blood, water and surface samples; and a broken Salyut-5 computer. Transferred to Mir were more than 1,000 pounds of water for waste system flushing and electrolysis; custom spacewalking tools to repair a jammed solar array on the Spektr module; and nitrogen and oxygen to raise Mir's air pressure. The Mir 19 crew temporarily left Mir in their Soyuz spacecraft to video Atlantis and Mir separating. Gibson compared the separation to a "cosmic ballet." To ease their re-entry into gravity, Mir-18 crew members Thagard, Dezhurov and Strekalov lay in custom-made Russian seats installed in the shuttle's middeck.

Related Links:
STS-71 (KSC Spaceflight Archive)
Androgynous Peripheral Docking System
Precourt: STS-71 Practical Joke
Shuttle Flights and Mir Increments
STS-71: Approach (video)
STS-71: Docking (video)
STS-71: Undocking (video)
Thagard Increment
Rendezvous and Docking
Charles Precourt Oral History (PDF)
Bonnie Dunbar Oral History (PDF)
Norm Thagard Oral History (PDF)

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