The experience of any space mission can depend upon many factors, including planned and unplanned events, the mix of the crew's personalities, and the individual perspective of a crewmember. In his Oral History, U.S. Mir astronaut John Blaha stresses some differences between the seven NASA astronauts residencies on Mir. However, he also says there were similarities.
Blaha says, "I'm trying to tell people this at all levels, that they [may] hear a different message from different people who flew on long flights, [but] that the reason for that is each one of the seven long Mir flights really [was] different.
"For example, if Norm Thagard flew the mission I flew, what I'm saying today Norm would be saying. And what Norm is saying, I would be saying. Or if I flew on Jerry's flight, and Jerry flew on the mission I flew, he would be saying what I'm saying today, and I would be saying what he's saying.
"In other words, instead of looking at the seven people who flew these missions as different people, [one should] realize that the missions were different. I think the people are actually more similar. We were all trained the same way in Houston, we all have the same basic education, background, etc. The missions were different.
"Jerry had a fire on his mission. I think it got his attention, and I'll bet you any other person who was on that as an American living in a foreign language would be thinking everything Jerry thinks today. Mike [had] a decompression. Shannon didn't get half her science experiments until the last two months of her six months, because the Priroda was very late getting there. Norm missed almost all of his [science experiments] because his module didn't arrive with all of his life science on it until three weeks before he left. All of those factors made the missions different . . .
Blaha says another factor that really affects a long-duration mission is the mission commander. He says, "...the Russian commander each of us flew with was a different human being. We know from our Apollo and Shuttle missions that the commander has a lot to do with a tone of a mission in orbit. The commanders are all different human beings. . . ."
Therefore, according to Blaha, "There were lots of factors that made each mission different. As a result, the human being -- and we tie names to them now -- who flew on those missions, had a uniquely defined mission to fly."
Profile: John Blaha
John Blaha Oral History (PDF)
Comparing the Increments
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