Shuttle-Mir Stories

STS-71 undocking from Mir Space Station.

Foale Describing the Space Shuttle and Mir

In his Oral History, U.S. Mir astronaut Michael Foale talks about the look and feel of both the space station Mir and the space shuttle.

Foale says, "I've seen [Mir] twice from afar. The first time was like seeing the Great Wall of China or something, from a distance. . . . You don't relate to it. . . . It's like being a tourist in a bus tour.

"We flew around it on STS-63. We saw these people on it . . . [There were] Elena [Kondakova] and these two kind of crazy guys waving to us, all excited. We didn't understand each other very well at all. I [didn't] know Russian well. But we had Vladimir Titov onboard, who could speak with them. We lingered there for about three hours. They invited us to tea. . . . "

Foale says that, later, on STS-84, "as we got very close and docked, [Mir] looked overall in better condition physically than I had imagined. . . . I was expecting worse and saw something better. . . . I saw brighter, more cheerful objects, more visible things, than kind of the dull cellar-like impression I'd had in my mind.

"I've mentioned this about space shuttle flight, too. Before my first space shuttle flight, I always thought getting into a shuttle would be like getting into a dark, gloomy place and having trouble reading the displays, because it's so dark and kind of gloomy. [However,] real shuttle flight is not like that. It's like being on the 737 flight deck -- light gray, sun streaming in through the windows -- and it's great and there's blue sky. It was the same kind of contrast from what I expected, and then what I actually saw [of Mir]."

Foale describes the Mir living area. "I was pleasantly surprised at the cheerfulness of the atmosphere there. It was kind of a warm, welcoming, cozy place, in spite of the masses of cables and equipment and wires that are on the walls. Nonetheless, it looked like a home. So that impression was kind of a mix of feelings, but colored also by previous experience."

Related Links:

Mir Space Station
Foale Increment
Profile: Michael Foale
Michael Foale Oral History (PDF)
Descriptions of Mir

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