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Teams - Keith E. Zimmerman, Operations Lead, NASA Increment 5

Keith Zimmerman was NASA's Operations Lead (Ops Lead) in Russia during the Foale Increment. His duties included coordinating communications between Mir astronaut Michael Foale, NASA, and Russia from the TsUP, the Russian Mission Control Center. In this role, Zimmerman was in charge of the Mir Operations Support Team for Increment 5, managing a group that included a mission science representative, a biomedical engineer, a payloads systems engineer, an operations support tech, a flight surgeon, and a public affairs representative.

Six weeks into the Foale's increment, a Progress resupply ship rammed into Spektr, one of Mir's six modules. The collision on June 25, 1997, caused a loss of pressure aboard the Russian Space Station. In his Oral History, Zimmerman described the TsUP during this crisis situation:

"Within about five minutes, I guess, the word got out pretty quick, and people just started pouring into the control room. The senior flight director, Vladimir Solovyev, was actually over in the Progress control room, since that's the dynamic vehicle, it was the one doing the moving.

"But he's the senior flight director for the whole control center, actually, so he outranks everybody. Actually, once the collision happened, within a couple of minutes he took over running both control centers, and he just started issuing orders, 'Okay, you guys do this, you guys do this. Commander, go do this. Mike, do this,' and just real strict about 'Do this, do this, do this.' I mean, that helped a lot.

"They had to get the Soyuz ready in case the crew had to leave and abandon ship, that was one possibility, but you also wanted someone to try to figure out where the leak was and close that module if you could. He [Solovyev] did a good job of trying to direct the right people in the right way."

Zimmerman began his career at NASA in the shuttle's pointing office, determining the rotational orientation of objects and pointing various instruments at targets. Later, he became the lead pointing engineer for the Space Station program before moving into the position of Ops Lead.

Keith Zimmerman Oral History (PDF)

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Curator: Kim Dismukes
Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty