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Norman Thagard, the first U.S. Mir astronaut, is the first and only American to have launched in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. In his Oral History, Thagard tells the story.
"Then we just lifted off. It's very similar to what the shuttle feels like, not as much noise, not as much vibration, but similar . . . " Thagard says that, during Soyuz's first stage, "...you actually get up to three Gs..." Three Gs is also the most acceleration shuttle crewmembers experience, although in the shuttle's case, this is toward the very end of powered flight.
Once the Soyuz's aerodynamic shroud fell away, Thagard says, "I could see out my window, but it's a small window, and on ascent I wasn't able to see much out there . . . a cloud or two . . . The main thing I remember is that while the ride was more or less similar, although again you just didn't have the same sense of power [as] with the shuttle . . . " and ". . . never as smooth as the shuttle in second stage, because once the shuttle's solid rocket boosters separate, it's like you're being propelled by a giant electric motor; it's very smooth and fairly quiet . . .
". . . The main difference at the end was that when the shuttle main engines cut off, they just cut off . . . but when the main engines cut off on the Soyuz, it was very emphatic, almost like a clank or a clang. . . . One possible explanation I've been told is that the shuttle . . . throttles back, . . . whereas the Soyuz third-stage engine is at full bore when it cuts off. But whatever the reason, that was very emphatic."
Space Shuttle Orbiter
Profile: Norman Thagard
Norm Thagard Oral History (PDF)
Video: Mir-18 (Thagard)
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