As a research engineer aboard Soyuz TM21, launched from Pad 1 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome on 14 March, NASA astronaut Dr Norman Thagard is the first American to be included in the crew of a Russian rocket. He will also be the first of four NASA astronauts to stay aboard the Mir 1 space station as part of a joint NASA/Russian programme, which is preparing the way for the proposed Alpha space station. Thagard is expected to exceed the US space-endurance record of 84 days, set by three Skylab astronauts in 1974, but by only six days. He will return to Earth with his TM21 colleagues on board the Shuttle Atlantis STS 71 at the end of the first Shuttle Mir Mission in June. Until now, his longest space flight has been eight days, but he is confident of his ability to work in space for three months. "I think I can do three months easily," he says. "If the Shuttle was delayed, I could stretch that to six months, but that might be the limit of what I would want to do." Thagard holds degrees in engineering and medicine and flew with the US Marine Corps Reserve during the Vietnam War. He was selected for NASA astronaut training in 1978 and his first Shuttle mission was STS 71 in 1983, when he studied space sickness. He has made three other shuttle flights since then.

Source: Flight International