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Teams - Richard W. "Rick" Nygren, Co-chair, Mir Operations and Integration Working Group, NASA

Rick Nygren from the NASA Johnson Space Center was the co-chair for the Mir Operations and Integration Working Group (MOIWG) and was the Space and Life Sciences Directorate Assistant Director for Russian Programs.

The MOIWG was responsible for the long duration aspects of the Phase 1 Program, coordinating the hardware integration, training, and operations activities of NASA hardware that flew on Russian vehicles. Nygren was responsible for accomplishing the goals of this group.

To meet the needs of the flight operations aspects, flight operations teams were located both in the TsUP (Russian Mission Control Center in Moscow) and the Mission Control Center in Houston, Texas, in support of the missions.

Regarding the crew training as it related to the operation of the US provided research hardware on the Mir, permanent teams conducted crew training at Star City, Russia, and in the US (two 3-week sessions) for each long duration mission.

To integrate all of the US research hardware on to the Mir Space Station, Nygren managed the efforts that designed and integrated a significant amount of hardware into the Spektr and Priroda modules preflight, as well as the integration of all of the US hardware that traveled on the Progress vehicles and the Shuttle for use during the long duration missions, and the integration of the US research hardware into the Shuttle middeck.

As Assistant Director for Russian Programs, his responsibilities included performing an oversight/management function as it related to the two other Phase 1 working groups that were within the Space and Life Sciences Directorate (the Mission Science Working Group and Medical Operations Working Group). He also chaired a configuration control board that was responsible for the approval of the U.S. science requirements, medical requirements, and the implementation of the U.S. research program being conducted on the Mir.

In his Oral History, Nygren commented that although differences were evident in Russian and American working practices, the two groups were able to accomplish a great deal together. The following is an example, referring to the hardware for the Spektr module:

"We would just sit down and talk ad infinitum with the Russians about, 'Where's the hole pattern for this? What is it we're supposed to match drill to?' They said, 'Well, just drill the holes and tell us where they're at.' And you know, that's just foreign to us. We couldn't believe it. 'Drill the holes and tell you where they're at? You're not going to build your spacecraft to our standards. You know, if we deliver this thing and we don't match up the holes, this isn't going to work.'

"Well, it turns out in a lot of cases that's exactly what they did. We ended up shipping our stuff over there, they checked it out functionally, loaded it up in a bunch of boxes, took it down to Baikonur, where the Spektr module was at. They would go in there, they would take our module in there, and they'd slap it up there, and they'd take a piece of chalk and they'd mark where the holes were, and they'd take ours out, and they'd drill the holes, and they would bolt it in right there.

"It sure cuts down on a lot of engineering drawings and stuff, but it was foreign to us, because we kept thinking we have to have all these interface drawings and agreements, and, they're, 'No, no, no. Just bring the hardware. We'll figure out a way to make it fit.'"

Rick Nygren Oral History (PDF)

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty