International cooperation is both a challenge and a benefit of shared space ventures. Working with Russia in the Shuttle-Mir Program provided the U.S. with experience that will be applied to the International Space Station with its 16 participating nations. In Shuttle-Mir, astronauts and cosmonauts wearing U.S. and Russian spacesuits participated in joint space walks to learn how to assemble the ISS. They trained in each other's languages and tested each other's techniques. Shuttle-Mir Program Director Frank Culbertson said, "... it was important that people realize we were not only teaching each other, but observing each other and learning from each other, and that both sides had a lot to offer. It wasn't just a one-way street by any means, and I think we've proven that over and over."
The ISS is a much larger, more complex program than was Shuttle-Mir. Lessons learned during Shuttle-Mir will help reduce risks. The Russian-built, American-integrated docking system made dockings simpler and safer. The astronaut experiences aboard Mir have led to many modifications, including single-command shutdown of ventilation systems to prevent the spread of fire, quick-disconnect cables in case of depressurization, and additional lighting for the ISS to help navigation during rendezvous. Program Director Frank Culbertson said: "The second stated goal was to mitigate risk for the international space station, and we were always looking for ways ... to try out hardware that was going to be used on ISS; develop procedures that were going to be used; to react to the situations that arose; and develop processes to respond to them. Again, we've got more than we bargained for in that, particularly in dealing with some of the contingencies that came up, such things as the fire, the depressurization. All that was not planned, of course, but certainly taught us a lot about what could happen during the ISS."
Prior to the Shuttle-Mir Program, NASA's longest duration experiences had been the Skylab missions of 1973-74. Space shuttle flights are limited to about two weeks. Shuttle-Mir enabled U.S. astronauts to spend 975 days -- more than 27 consecutive months - on Mir, more time in orbit than had been accumulated in orbit since the Shuttle Program began in 1981. Shuttle-Mir's long-duration residences provided experience and data that will help in the ISS and in possible future missions to the moon and Mars.
Science conducted by astronauts aboard Mir included over 100 investigations in eight disciplines, including Advanced Technologies, Earth Sciences, Fundamental Biology, Human Life Sciences, ISS Risk Mitigation, Life Support Risk Management, Microgravity, and Space Sciences. The investigations are discussed in the Science pages of this web site. About the scientific merits of Shuttle-Mir, Program Director Frank Culbertson said: "The other important thing that people should remember is that anytime we have the opportunity to conduct research on any platform, whether it's at sea, in Antarctica, in space, we do it... So you have two things: one is the ability to establish the outpost ... and then you have ... what you do productively while you're there. The two are different and they should support each other, but you shouldn't confuse them when you're evaluating the success of a program or the plans for building something."
Shuttle-Mir showed that space exploration is no longer a competition between nations. It also:
Besides the information offered in the other sections, this web site offers several other histories and reports in Documents.
Life on Mir
Benefits of Shuttle-Mir
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