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Norman Thagard was the first American astronaut to train in Russia, the first to launch aboard a Soyuz (with cosmonauts Vladimir Dezhurov and Gennady Strekalov), and the first to complete a residency aboard Mir, setting an American space endurance record of 115 days in orbit, March 14 - July 7, 1995. Thagard returned to Earth with the Space Shuttle mission STS-71, the first shuttle flight to dock with Mir.
His training in Russia pioneered the pattern for future training. His launch aboard Soyuz gave NASA a first-hand American critique of the spacecraft, which is planned to be used with the International Space Station. His scientific and medical investigations both increased knowledge in those areas and prepared the way for the other American Mir astronauts. Thagard holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering science from Florida State University, and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He served in Vietnam as a Marine fighter pilot and flew four shuttle missions between 1978 and 1992, logging over 25 days in space. His record of total time in orbit was broken by Shannon Lucid in August 1996. In his Oral History, Thagard said: "I thought it was extremely ironic, because when I was flying missions in Vietnam in 1969 as an F-4 pilot, I thought that there was an excellent chance that at some point in time I'd have interactions with the Russians, but I thought it would be of a somewhat different nature than they turned out. If anyone in 1969 had ever told me that I would wind up having a captain in the Russian force as a commander, I would have said, 'You're crazy.'. . ."
For more information on Thagard's stay on Mir, select Shuttle Flights & Mir Increments, Thagard Increment.
NASA Biography: Norman Thagard
Norm Thagard Oral History (PDF)
Zero-G training in Russia (video)
Norman E. Thagard (video)
Norman Thagard Video (11 sec.) MPEG (751K) (No Audio)
U.S. Mir Residents | Astronauts | Cosmonauts | Teams | Oral Histories | Shuttle-Mir Stories
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