Combined work to rescue the damaged Mir space station No review of space achievements in 1997 would be complete without mention of the rescue drama surrounding Russia's Mir space station.

Working in the full glare of world publicity, the Russian Space Agency and Mir crew worked to overcome what many media commentators had already written off as insurmountable problems. The Awards judging panel felt that this recovery and the continuing US-Russian co-operation on the Shuttle Mir mission deserved special recognition.

It is now more than a decade since Russia launched the core module of Mir, with another five modules added through to 1995. Keeping a space station operational for these unprecedented periods of time has brought its own challenges, not least in terms of maintenance, but it has also provided Russia with some invaluable experience.

Since Russia's decision to join the International Space Station (ISS)project in the early 1990s, that experience has been shared with NASA in an historic multi-national collaboration.

The joint Shuttle Mir Mission programme, has helped NASA to learn the lessons of long term space flight, putting a series of astronauts aboard Mir. In turn, the Shuttle flights have helped to extend Mir's life, providing equipment and logistics support.

Astronaut Michael Foale was aboard Mir last year, alongside cosmonauts Vasily Tsiblyev and Alexander Lazutkin, when a Russian Progress tanker collided with the space station's Spektr module, causing serious damage. Coming after a fire earlier in the year, the accident seemed to raise a questionmark over the project's whole future.

Yet despite intense scrutiny from the world media, the Russian ground staff and crew effectively returned the station to operation. Shuttle missions also served in a supporting role through the crisis, delivering repair equipment and replacement kit.

Source: Flight International