Phase 1 Shuttle Mir

"Men who have worked together to reach the stars are not likely to descend together into the depths of war and desolation."

- U.S. Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson, addressing the U.N. General Assembly, 1958

Shuttle-Mir Phase 1 was a NASA program encompassing 11 space shuttle flights over a 4-year period from 1995 to 1998. Its goal was to build joint space experience and start joint scientific research. It was called Phase 1 because it was the first phase in the International Space Station (ISS) project that is currently under way. Phase 2 is the actual construction of the ISS that is occurring now.
Seven American astronauts lived on board the Mir space station with the Russian cosmonaut crews for up to 6 months at a time. The missions were highlighted by crew exchange and resupply trips from the space shuttle to the Mir station. NASA learned how to successfully dock the shuttle with the Mir, which was advantageous to our knowledge of docking techniques and systems that we are now using with the ISS facility. 

Cosmonaut Valeri Korzun and Astronaut John Blaha
A fire and a spacecraft crash during Phase 1 helped us to learn ways of coping with emergencies situations and helped lead to new training methods, safety precautions, emergency procedures, and structural and design concerns as we built and inhabit the ISS.

Cosmonaut Nicolai Budarinon on the Mir
NASA and Russian engineers, designers, technicians, and flight crews worked together to achieve a common goal melding their different work styles into a unified plan. The Shuttle-Mir Program was a complicated program incorporating the very different working styles and philosophies of the U.S. and Russian space agencies and their international partners.
The Russian space station Mir provided the long-duration living and working quarters for the international flight crews. Its oldest components have now been in orbit for 12 years, but it has been constantly renewed, updated, and resupplied to keep it in good condition. The collision of a Progress cargo vessel with the Spektr module in 1997 resulted in the loss of that module.  However, joint efforts to locate the source of the leak and figure out ways to repair it allowed crews and engineers to gain experience working on a difficult.
NASA astronauts underwent specialized training before living on board Mir. As a prerequisite for the assignment, they had to acquire cosmonaut certification training in Star City. They also learned to speak Russian and attained proficiency with the experiments they would perform. The first American to live on board Mir reported feelings of loneliness and isolation, and steps were taken to prevent that happening to his successors. These experiences have led to greater understanding of the psychological as well as the physical stresses of long-duration spaceflight.

Astronaut Norman E. Thagard in a cosmonaut space suit in the Training Simulator Facility at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center (Star City)

Both United States and international microgravity science partners used the facilities aboard Mir to conduct investigations in fluid physics, combustion, biotechnology, and materials science. The microgravity facilities aboard the Mir space station included furnaces, a glovebox, and a system to isolate experiments from the stationís vibration environment.
Click here for an interview with American Mir astronaut Shannon Lucid.

This Phase 1 Program, a precursor to the International Space Station, maintained a continuous presence in space and developed the procedures and hardware required for international partnerships in space.

Astronaut Shannon Lucid aboard the shuttle Atlantis after her 6 months on board Mir

Crew of STS-79 and Mir-22
The Shuttle-Mir Program sought to answer vital questions about the future of human life in space. Crews could experience real-life issues that might otherwise arise with even more serious consequences aboard the International Space Station. Mir was a test site for three main areas of experience and investigation.
Designing, building, and staffing the International Space Station are big jobs. As Phase 1 participants draw from the experience and resources of many nations to make it all happen, Shuttle-Mir experience teaches them how to work together and learn from one another.

Astronauts Shannon Lucid and John Blaha on Mir

Click here for more on international cooperation in spaceflight.


Mir offered a unique opportunity for long-duration data gathering. Station designers are used Mir as a test site for space station hardware, materials, and construction methods. Mir astronauts conducted scientific investigations into biological and material studies in microgravity. NASA-Mir scientists sought to answer vital questions about how humans, animals and plants function in space, how our solar system originated and developed, how we can build better technology in space, and how we can build future space stations. Click here for links to each of the experiments carried and completed on the Shuttle-Mir missions.

In the 35-year history of human spaceflight, no previous program had required so many transport vehicles, so much interdependent operation between organizations, and so much good timing. Shuttle-Mir was an opportunity to gear up for the major cooperative effort the International Space Station requires.

Click here for some great animations of the space shuttle Discovery docking with the Mir and some 36- views of the Mir space station.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts

"The most valuable contribution of Phase 1 has been the way it brought U.S. and Russian personnel together."

-Astronaut Frank Culbertson, Phase 1 Program Manager

The crews of the Shuttle/Mir flights were:

Norman Thagard
Mir 18 crewmember
Launch - March 14, 1995 (Soyuz TM-21)
Landing - July 7, 1995 (STS-71)

Shannon Lucid
Mir 21 crewmember
Launch - March 22, 1996 (STS-76)
Landing - September 26, 1996 (STS-79)

Astronaut Mike Foale
returns from Mir

John Blaha
Mir 22 crewmember
Launch - September 16, 1996 (STS-79)
Landing - January 22, 1997 (STS-81)

Jerry Linenger
Mir 22/23 crewmember
Launch - January 12, 1997 (STS-81)
Landing - May 24, 1997 (STS-84)

Mike Foale
Mir 23/24 crewmember
Launch - May 15, 1997 (STS-84)
Landing - October 5, 1997 (STS-86)

Astronaut Dave Wolf hands over to Astronaut Andy Thomas

David Wolf
Mir 24 crewmember
Launch - September 25, 1997 (STS-86)
Landing - January 31, 1998 (STS-89)

Andy Thomas
Mir 24/25 crewmember
Launch - January 22, 1998 (STS-89)
Landing - June 12, 1998 (STS-91)

The Soyuz spacecraft docked with Mir
Click here for an interview with Andy Thomas on board the Mir.

Click here for links to biographies of all the Mir astronauts.

Click here for the shuttle crews and links to each shuttle mission involved in the Phase 1 program, and click here for links to the Russian Mir commanders and flight engineers.
Click on any of the below links for many great videos from the Shuttle-Mir Phase 1 program.

STS-91 Videos

STS-81 Videos

Cosmonaut Pavel V. Vinogradov, Mir-24 flight engineer; Cosmonaut Salizan S. Sharipov, shuttle  payload specialist representing the Russian Space Agency (RSA); Cosmonaut Anatoliy Y. Solovyev, Mir-24 commander - wearing the space helmet; and Astronaut Andrew S. W. Thomas


Click here to visit the S/MORE Shuttle/MIR Online Research Experience site. S/MORE is a K-12 project providing a behind-the-scenes look at the life sciences research conducted in space aboard the Mir station. Although S/MORE is no longer interactive, the archive will remain available indefinitely and will remain educationally useful.

Questions to think about:

  • The fire on board the Mir contributed a lot of smoke to the cabin before it was extinguished.  How could you train astronauts to be prepared for this kind of fire and smoke contingency?

  • The crash of the Progress vehicle into the Mir space station caused a cabin leak. Luckily, the crew had time to seal off the module from the rest of the space station  How would you train astronauts to be prepared for a sudden cabin leak contingency?

  • How would you design the modules of the space station to compensate for possible cabin leaks due to crashes or micrometeorite debris?

In the next lesson, we will take you on a tour of the International Space Station, its goals, and its early achievements. Come explore the largest space laboratory ever to be built and meet the international partners that are helping to make it a reality for this new century in space.

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