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Norman Thagard, the first U.S. Mir astronaut, is the first and only American to have launched and docked in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In his Oral History, Thagard describes docking the Soyuz with the Mir space station.
Thagard says, "My responsibility during the rendezvous and docking was control of the radios and the television cameras, and to help . . . as we went through the systems checks. . . . I could see if I leaned over Veloga's [Vladimir Dezhurov's] periscope view, but to do that would be interfering with Veloga, so I took a brief look at it through the periscope. The television view was . . . as good as the periscope view. So the only way I saw the Mir station when we were going up there was through the television.
"Anyhow, everything was perfectly nominal. While the commander can take over and do it manually, the fact is the automatic system worked all right, and we went in and we had a docking. It was not violent. In fact, the way I describe it is if you've ever backed a car into a loading dock and they have those rubber cushions . . . kind of a little bump but nothing awesome, nothing scary.
"Then, of course, you have to spend time doing pressure checks and things like that, and then they just cracked open the hatch, and Veloga handed . . . into the Mir station the American and Russian flags, and then we closed the hatch again. When it was time, . . . they insisted that I be the first one onboard . . . "
Thagard says that Cosmonaut Elena Kondakova "was there with a little tray, and she had Velcroed . . . a little bit of salt and some bread, which is supposed to be a traditional Russian greeting for a visitor. Of course, everybody hugged and good times were had by all. It was a nice time. It was a fun time . . ."
Rendezvous and Docking
Profile: Norman Thagard
Norm Thagard Oral History (PDF)
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