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January 12 - 22, 1997
Space Shuttle: Atlantis
Crew: Baker, Jett, Wisoff, Grunsfeld, Ivins
Embarking to Mir: Linenger
Returning from Mir: Blaha
STS-81 replaced U.S. astronaut John Blaha with Jerry Linenger, after Blaha's 118-day stay aboard Russian Space Station Mir. It transferred the most materials to date, during this fifth of nine dockings. Atlantis also returned the first plants to complete a life cycle in space -- a crop of wheat planted by Shannon Lucid and grown from seed to seed. During five days of mated operations, the crews transferred nearly 6,000 pounds of logistics to Mir, including: 1,600 pounds of water; 1,100 pounds of U.S. science equipment; and 2,200 pounds of Russian logistical equipment. About 2,400 pounds of materials returned with Atlantis from Mir.
The STS-81 crew tested on the Shuttle Treadmill Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System (TVIS), designed for use in the Russian Service Module of the International Space Station. The crew also fired the shuttle's small vernier jet thrusters during mated operations to gather engineering data for the ISS. After undocking on Jan. 19 , Atlantis performed a fly-around of Mir. Linenger would work with the Mir-22 crew of Commander Valeri Korzun and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri crew until the arrival in February of the Mir-23 crew of Commander Vasily Tsibliev, Flight Engineer Aleksandr Lazutkin and German researcher Reinhold Ewald. Ewald would return to Earth with the Mir-22 cosmonauts after a brief stay on the station, after which STS-84 would bring up Astronaut Michael Foale to replace Linenger on Mir.
In his Oral History, Brent Jett said: "Other than that, Jerry, by the time we left, he seemed real comfortable over in the Mir. I knew he was going to do a really, really great job, and he's a very disciplined person, and I knew he would have a great mission. I was kind of sad to be leaving him . . . I knew I would see him again and I knew I'd see the cosmonauts again, but, you know, kind of seeing Jerry on the other side of the hatch when we closed it, I was thinking that he is now part of a Russian crew, and he won't be, except for video links and audio links, won't be really able to talk to his friends. I knew he was facing something like we face in the military when we go on deployment, but at least we have probably a lot closer friends than he was being left with. And, of course, I had no idea that he would go through a very critical situation like he had with the fire."
STS-81 (KSC Spaceflight Archive)
Shuttle Flights and Mir Increments
STS-81: Approach/Docking/Linenger Farewell (video)
Rendezvous and Docking
Brent Jett Oral History (PDF)
John Blaha Oral History (PDF)
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty