Shuttle-Mir History/Background

Astronauts Norman E. Thagard and Bonnie J. Dunbar in cosmonaut space suits in the Training Simulator Facility at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center(Star City), near Moscow, Russia.


Shuttle-Mir astronauts trained for their Mir flights in both the U.S. and Russia. They found similarities and differences in the ways astronauts and cosmonauts were trained.

Links listed at the bottom of this text section offer many insights into the training, including excerpts from Oral Histories. The "Joint Programs Report," available in PDF, discusses training in detail, beginning on page 143. The Timeline gives a chronological reference.

In general, NASA gives more operational responsibility to its spaceflight crews than does the Russian Space Agency. For example, NASA requires its pilots to have more "hands-on" control of the space shuttle. NASA also maintains more consistent communications with its shuttles, and astronauts are generally able to ask ground controllers for immediate advice and assistance. Further, partly because shuttle missions rarely last more than two weeks, every activity and many potential problems are prepared for intensively, and in advance.

In contrast, Russian spacecraft are generally more automated, with less "hands-on" control by their crews. Voice communications with ground control are usually limited to a ten-minute "com pass" (communications pass), once every 90-minute orbit. Also, Russian Mir "expeditions" last for many months; therefore cosmonauts are called upon to respond to both sudden and slowly evolving contingencies.

NASA relies more on its training "sims," realistic simulations of spaceflight situations. Until recently, astronauts were not given formal, written examinations. The Russian Space Agency also uses simulators to teach the use of equipment and systems, but it does not simulate as many situations and activities. Cosmonauts spend more time than astronauts do in classroom training, with generally oral examinations.

Related Links:
Joint Programs Report (PDF)
Training of Astronauts in Russia
Gargarin Cosmonaut Training Center
Blaha on Training
Foale on Black Sea Training
Lucid on Training in Russia
Thomas on Training
Wolf on Training
Star City Life

The following links are MPEG files and will take you directly to the video you choose:

Thagard, Dunbar, Lucid, Blaha - Zero-G training in Russia (video)
Simulators, Flt. Deck training, motion base simulator, Soyuz simulator (video)
Workout-physical training Foale/Wolf/Linenger/Lawrence (video)
Survival Training: water landing; winter training; Bailout (video)
Underwater training (video)
EVA training: Parazynski virtual reality (video)
Star City & Mir hardware mockups (video)

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