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Norman Thagard was the first U.S. Mir astronaut. In his Oral History, he comments on learning of his selection.
Thagard describes how Astronaut Chief Dan Brandenstein "came to me about seven o'clock one morning and asked me if I were interested in flying the Russian flight. It was a bolt out of the blue, because I had never gone to him and volunteered. And I said, 'Absolutely,' because I thought it was a neat thing to do. I had always wanted to learn Russian, but I knew if I didn't have some real reason to do it, there was no way I was ever going to do that. It was a ride on a Soyuz rocket, it was training in Russia, and it was long-duration . . . three months, which would be unlike anything that I'd experienced in the Shuttle Program. So I thought it was a great deal . . ."
Thagard goes on to say that he felt "lucky." "I took that assignment really seriously, and I tried to take the attitude that I wasn't going to be the ugly American," but, "be a cosmonaut and fly as a crew member on a Russian crew. . . . I wasn't going to go over there and . . . take my environment with me. I was going to accept whatever conditions were there . . ."
Profile: Norman Thagard
Norm Thagard Oral History (PDF)
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