Shuttle-Mir History/Background/NASA and Human Spaceflight

NASA Administrator, Daniel Goldin and Russia Space Agency Director, Yuri Koptev welcome the crew of STS-71 home to Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Negotiations and Joint Planning

The U.S. and Russia (formerly the Soviet Union) share a space history of competition and cooperation, which includes political and space agency negotiations.

As early as 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev began talks to discover ways to cooperate in space. In 1964, the U.S. and the Soviet Union agreed to exchange information on space biology and space medicine.

The first major effort at working together began on May 24, 1972, with the "Agreement on Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes." This established the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and pioneered managerial and technical arrangements that continue to this day.

Planning and work toward Apollo-Soyuz continued through 1973 and 1974, while America also orbited the Skylab orbital laboratory and the Soviets launched the military space stations, Salyuts 3 and 4. In July 1975, when American Apollo 18 and the Soviet Soyuz 19 docked, the first international spacecraft rendezvous was achieved.

Post-Apollo-Soyuz talks took place in October 1976. On May 11, 1977, the "Agreement between the USSR Academy of Science and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA on Cooperation in the Area of Manned Space Flight" formally initiated studies into the prospects of joint Shuttle-Salyut flights. On May 18, 1977, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko renewed the 1972 agreement and endorsed the May 11 agreement. In November 1977, more Shuttle-Salyut talks were held in Moscow.

In 1978, a joint Shuttle-Salyut mission was proposed at the Johnson Space Center and means of docking a shuttle with a Salyut space station were outlined. But U.S. worries of harmful technology transfer to the Soviet Union slowed discussions. In June, NASA Administrator Robert Frosch wrote to USSR Academy of Sciences President A. P. Alexandrov, saying, "We have found that the issues underlying this activity are far more complex than we had at first believed."

Reform in Russia and tragedy in America affected joint-efforts in 1985 and 1986. In 1985, President Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, bringing reform policies and new "openness" in the Soviet system. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, halting American spaceflights for nearly two years.

In May 1990, U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle discussed space cooperation with Gorbachev and several vice presidents of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. The U.S. State Department then negotiated with the Soviets. In July 1991, Oleg Shishkin, minister of General Machine Building, met with Quayle to advocate an ambitious cooperative program, including a shuttle rendezvous with Mir followed by crew transfer using Manned Maneuvering Units. This was not approved, but on July 31, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev signed a space cooperation agreement in Moscow, calling for a flight by a U.S. astronaut aboard a Soviet Soyuz to Mir for a stay of up to six months. A Russian cosmonaut would fly aboard a shuttle spacelab mission. This established the U.S.-Soviet "Manned Flight Joint Working Group" and a coordinating mechanism for elevating space cooperation discussions within the Kremlin and White House.

The Soviet Union effectively dissolved in 1991, when Gorbachev resigned as President. The new president, Boris Yeltsin has ever since advocated U.S.-Russian space cooperation. On June 17, 1992, the U.S. and the new Russian Federation renewed the 1987 space cooperation agreement and issued a "Joint Statement on Cooperation in Space" calling for Russian cosmonauts aboard shuttle mission STS-60 and U.S. astronauts aboard Mir in 1993, with a Shuttle-Mir docking mission in 1994 or 1995. The statement also opened the door for U.S. commercial purchase of Russian space services.

In July 1992, a NASA Structural/Mechanical working group met with their counterparts in Russia to discuss the Russian docking mechanism. Also in July, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin met with the Russian Space Agency (RSA) General Director Yuri Koptev, to visit Russian space facilities and work toward more cooperation. On October 5, Goldin and Koptev met in Moscow to sign the "Implementing Agreement on Human Space Flight Cooperation," which detailed many Shuttle-Mir plans.

In 1993, additions to the 1992 agreement called for the Shuttle-Mir program to include up to 10 shuttle rendezvous flights with Mir and plans for an international space station to include the Russian Federation. Further discussions included an "Enhanced Shuttle-Mir Baseline Program," with two 3-month and four 6-month American residencies on Mir through 1997 and U.S. scientific instruments on Mir's Spektr module.

By the time Russian cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev flew onboard the U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery in February 1994, plans for U.S.-Russian cooperation in space had moved well beyond Shuttle-Mir to the International Space Station.

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