Shuttle-Mir History/Shuttle Flights & Mir Increments/Foale Increment

Mir space station taken by the crew of the STS-86 orbiter Atlantis including Spektr and its damaged solar array.

Foale Increment: Collision and Recovery

STS-84 launched on May 15, 1997 with crew member Mike Foale. He replaced Mir astronaut John Blaha and spent a total of 134 days in orbit. Foale returned to Earth with STS-86, on October 6, 1997. Foale's mission proceeded fairly normally until June 25, when during a test of a manual docking system, a Progress resupply ship collided with Mir's Spektr module, causing a depressurization of the space station. The crew closed the hatch to Spektr, which stabilized the station's air pressure, while Spektr's pressure dropped to a vacuum. The collision knocked Mir into a spin, at a rate of about once every six minutes, but the crew members were able to stabilize the station. Many of Foale's experiments and personal effects were isolated within Spektr. Fortunately, food, water and other vital Mir supplies were stored in other modules.

In August, Foale's Mir-23 crewmates, Vasily Tsibliev and Aleksandr Lazutkin, were replaced by Mir-24's Anatoly Solovyev and Pavel Vinogradov, who arrived in a Soyuz vehicle. Later in the mission, Foale and Solovyev conducted a 6-hour EVA to inspect the damage to the punctured Spektr.

During his mission, Foale performed science experiments in various disciplines, including biology, human life sciences, Earth sciences, and advanced technology.

In his Oral History, Foale says that, shortly after the collision, "It crossed my mind, 'You know, I've been here six weeks and I think we're going to be going home right now.' I was actually kind of sad. I thought, 'Well, you know, that's a shame. I won't finish this whole thing. I had set out here to be four and a half months, and now it's going to get cut short. This is a real emergency.' And we had all the danger of getting out of there, but it was crossing my mind, 'This is a shame. I've only been here six and a half weeks. What a shame I'm not getting to do the whole thing.'

"Then it occurred to me, 'Well, you know, you'll get to see your kids and [your wife] Rhonda sooner.' And I thought, 'Oh, but we're going to be landing in Kazakhstan. That's going to be a delay.' The thoughts that went through my mind, it was exactly like that. I thought, 'You'd better focus on getting this sealed off here.' That's what went through my mind."

The residency of an American astronaut aboard the Russian space station continued with NASA Astronaut David Wolf.

Related Links:
Profile: Michael Foale
Michael Foale Oral History (PDF)
Ops Lead Keith Zimmerman Oral History (PDF)
The Collision
Foale on The Collision
Foale on the "Spin"
Precourt on the Collision
Foale on Black Sea Training
Foale Describing the Space Shuttle Mir
Foale on Benefit of Phase 1
Foale on Communications
Foale on Doing "Dirty" Work
Foale on Fire & "Near Miss"
Foale on Going to Mir
Foale on his EVA
Foale on Life in Russia
Foale on Life on Mir
NASA Press Briefings


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