AKA: Mir EO-28;Yenisey. Launched: 2000-04-04. Returned: 2000-06-16. Number crew: 2 . Duration: 72.82 days.
Soyuz TM-30 docked with Mir's forward (-X) port on April 6 at 0631 GMT. Zalyotin and Kaleri reactivated Mir and using Progress M1-1 and M1-2 resupplied the station and raised the orbit to 360 x 378 km x 51.6 deg. The orbital plane of Mir was then around 120 degrees away from that of ISS (making transport between the stations impossible, as desired by NASA). Soyuz TM-30 undocked from Mir on June 15 21:24 GMT. Retrofire came at 23:52 GMT, followed by a safe landing at June 16, 00:44 GMT near Arkalyk in Kazakhstan.
On 4.04.2000 at 05.01.29UTC the Soyuz-TM30 was launched from Baykonur with on board the crew for the 28th Main Expedition (ME) to the Mir space station. The crew consists of Zalyotin (commander), who is making his first spaceflight and Kaleri, board engineer, who is entering orbit for the 3rd time.
After the flawless start the ship came in my range between 0804 and 0806UTC. This was during the 3rd orbit. The monitored traffic lasted very short for S-TM30 was still flying in a low orbit and the elevation here was only 7 degrees. The first sign of life had been the telemetry transmitter in the 166 mc band. After some minutes this was followed by the voice of commander Zalyotin who reported that 'the test had been successful'. He referred to the charge-current which had been 29 (possibly Amperes) and during this report 27. He also told TsUP that the crew had left the SA (landing module) and entered the BO (life compartment).
He had a remark for at approx. 0730UTC there was a signal about the composition of the air. When they entered the BO the pressure was 814 mm, after 15-20 minutes 815 and just before this communications session 818 mm. Therefore they opened a valve.
During the 3rd orbit the first engine impulse for the correction of the orbit had been given. This impulse took place at 0837UTC. The duration was 49 seconds. The 2nd impulse was scheduled for 0923UTC, so during the 4th orbit.
The pass for my position during the 4th orbit was between 0933 and 0938UTC. I monitored good telemetry signals on 166 mc and with the use of the doppler effect in the frequency 922.755 mc I could determine the TCA (Time Closest Approach), being 0935UTC.
Zalyotin reported that they for 5 seconds flew in the 'indicative regime', so possible for a while in 'free drift'. The parameters (obviously after the 2nd orbit correction) were good. Zalyotin said that they were working on the concluding operation. During the pass in the next orbit Kaleri could be heard between 1104-1111UTC. He reported that all was well with the crew. In fact they almost froze but now they were warming up again. He wrote down an instruction for the 6th orbit and after that he only confirmed that what TsUP was telling him.
The 3rd engine impulse, which will be needed for the correct flight to the Mir-complex, will be given on 5.04.2000 at 0557UTC.
Mir: While waiting for the arrival of the crew TsUP regularly checks Mir's telemetry. The transmitters can be heard in the 166, 165, 634 and 640 mc bands.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
Soyuz TM-30 docked with Mir's forward (-X) port on April 6 at 0631 GMT. Zalyotin and Kaleri reactivated the uninhabited station. Unloading Progress M1-1 and M1-2, they resupplied the station. The Progress spacecraft were also used to raise the station's orbit to 360 x 378 km x 51.6 deg. The orbital plane of Mir was then around 120 degrees away from that of ISS (making transport between the stations impossible, as desired by NASA).
The last meters of the approach and the docking were executed in the manual mode. Just before reaching a distance of 9 meters the cosmonauts saw a deviation of 1 or 2 degrees along one of the axes. (Some press reports said that just before the docking the approach was again in the automatic mode, but a TsUP's spokesman denied this.)
The docking (the so called 'kasaniye', soft mate) took place on 6.04.2000 at 06.31.24UTC. (Again differences in press reports varying between 0630 and 0633UTC)
Radio traffic during the final phase of the approach between 0619-0622UTC. At 06.19.50UTC Zalyotin reported a distance of 167 and also that he had no remarks on the 'automatic mode'.
During 2 orbits after the docking (Mir's orbits 80783 and 80784) communication took place from inside Soyuz-TM30. The equalisation of the pressures in Mir and S-TM30 lasted rather long. At 0756UTC the pressure in Mir was 572 mm mercury, in S-TM30 633 mm. At 0932UTC the crew switched on the TV transmitter for the transmission of images of the opening of the hatches and the entering of the crew into Mir.
During the pass in Mir's orbit number. 80785, between 1102-1107UTC, radio traffic could be monitored in the old good frequency 143.625 mc. The crew had been blowing additional air in Mir's atmosphere, which increased the pressure to 628 mm. For this measurement they used only one mano-vacuum-meter.
Meanwhile they had deconserved the Central Post, the transition chamber (PRK) to Kvant-1 (Module-E) and the Kvant-1 itself. In following reports the crew stated that the air on board was good, but the temperature a little bit too high, 26 degrees Celsius. They also reported about a lot of routine work (loading commands into computers) and they paid a lot of attention to valves and extra air pressure checks.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
As already mentioned in MirNEWS.474 the 28th Main Expedition can only take advantage of the tracking stations within the territory of the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan. The chain of these tracking facilities starts in the Far East with Petropavlovsk Kamchatka and ends with the stations near St Petersburg and Shcholkovo near Moscow. These days the communication windows for Mir and TsUP open at about 2200UTC and this sequence closes at approx. 0800UTC. The beginning of each window every day shifts approx. 20 minutes and so the 'communications day' begins earlier every day. To make it possible to use these modest possibilities as efficient as possible the working-day is now determined by the communication windows. So during their working-hours the cosmonauts can depend on TsUP.
To be honest: this situation should not be acceptable in this technically advanced era. A space station has to be able to dispose of fully covered communications with controllers on earth. American space shuttles have the possibility to communicate with their flight control in Houston almost 24 hours every day by the use of a number of TDRS-s. The Russians have proved to be masters in the art of improvisation, but great gaps in communications are risky. The expedition which is going on is fully controlled by TsUP, but nevertheless the organisation, which made this flight and eventual following ones possible, is highly responsible. At least this organisation should have to invest money for the extension of the communication structure for instance by the launch of 1 or 2 geostationary satellites of the Altair series or to lease Luch-1 transponders in active geostationary comsats. Another possibility might be the use of 2 of the 4 tracking ships now mothballed in St. Petersburg. With so many enthusiastic multimillionaires this must be possible.
Windows for my position:
The passes of the Mir-station for my position mainly take place in the night-hours and so I have to monitor traffic by the use of a time switch which activates my tape recorder during passes. So I am able to cover 5 or 4 of the 6 passes and thus receiving a lot of traffic.
The beginning of the 28th Main expedition: Already on their first day on board the cosmonauts started to work on the most important task: to secure a liveable atmosphere. They started with adding air and in this way the pressure was increased to 628 MM Mercury.
They did this during Mir's orbit 80785, 1102-1107UTC. Then the crew reactivated the Central Post in the Base Block. They also regenerated air cartridges. Thereafter they 'deconserved' the PRK (transition chamber to the module Kvant-1) and that module itself. Control computers were loaded with needed data after which a number of system commands could be controlled automatically.
During the pass in orb. 80786, one and a half hour later, the cosmonauts reported attitude control data. They started air pressure checks using the mano vacuum-meter (MVM) from the BO (life compartment of the S-TM30) and agreed upon the use of the same MVM for all pressure measurements. Measurements during 07.04 gave values between 625 and 619 MM Mercury. On 7.04 and the following days radio traffic was very dense. The accent was put on the work on the life support systems, like the replacement and installation of ventilators, the separation of a cooling loop to be able to purify this, work on the BKV (a.c.), while on 9.04 the Elektrons, the electrolysis oxygen generators, got the first attention.
To make accurate pressure measurements in these parts of the complex possible, the SO (docking compartment at the Kristall module) and the Priroda were shielded off hermetically from other parts of the station. The crew had switched on one of the Elektrons, but this switched itself off.
On 9.04 the cosmonauts took some time for the exchange of congratulations with the oncoming Day of Cosmonautics. During one of these sessions Zalyotin told that it had been very difficult for him to accustom himself to micro gravity conditions.
On 10.04 the real work started. Meanwhile the pressure was 622 MM Mercury and the mysterious leakage was not in that SO (docking compartment), for the pressure there did not change. The Elektron was active and connected with a Gas Analyser. Before that they had burnt 2 disks (shashki - lithium perchloride cartridges) for additional oxygen. They worked hard on the cooling loop (KOKh-1) and executed the separation of that circuit. On 11.04 the work on the cooling loop was still going on. In a friendly contact with a lady on earth the crew emphasised that it was very difficult to start to live in house that had been untenanted during 6 months.
12.04, Day of Cosmonautics, the necessary congratulations, among which those of cosmonaut and RKK Energiya chief, Aleksandrov. The crew reported that they repaired the heating loop KOB-2. Then an uplink TV session from earth was established. During the next pass the TV session was bilateral. Again congratulations, but festivities or not the work had to go on. The pressure was now 617 MM. The cooling loop KOKh-2V had been activated by computer commands. Then there was a sad announcement given by Zalyotin: all tritons delivered to the station for experiments passed away. Again 3 shashki (Lithium Perchloride cartridges) were burnt, obviously the oxygen production of the Elektrons had been insufficient. On 13.04 a lot of work on water management, so condense, the connection of water tanks, regeneration, water with air bubbles, etc. The pressure on board was 613 MM.
On 14.04 again much traffic about the work on water systems, but also about visual and camera observations of flooded areas near rivers in Hungary, Rumania and Poland. Zalyotin shows his expertise in this field possibly gathered by him during his career as an airforce pilot. He asks for more accurate instructions about the wishes of those who asked for these observations. This day the pressure is 628 MM and meanwhile the Elektron in the Kvant-1 module is active, the Gas Analysator inclusive.
On 15.04 students from Russia and other CIS-countries, who participate in a workshop, visit TsUP and ask questions. On one of the questions Zalyotin answers that the flight is proceeding well and that all has been activated, that they carried out the necessary repairs and that they are feeling well. On the question how the station sustained the 6 months lasting conservation Zalyotin answers that all was normal, but he and his crew-mate did not like the fact that there was no dinner ready after their arrival. When in the past a new crew arrived all was ready and that is very convenient. So this time they had to do this all themselves. A lot of questions about the atmosphere and life conditions in the complex. Answer: the problem with the temperature has been solved. The temperature in the Base Block is now 25 degrees C, but a little bit lower in the other modules.
ORBITCORRECTIONS WITH THE ENGINES OF THE PROGRES-M1 NR.1:
The first one took place on 16.04 at 0043UTC, the second one on 17.04 at 0100UTC. 43 minutes later, during the first pass for my position, Zalyotin reported that the impulse worked well and did not give any problems.
So for a while old orbit predictions cannot be used.
Physical training: Due to the amount of work the crew did not yet execute their obligatory daily physical training today.
UGLI POSADKI: During the last pass for my position TsUP gave the so called Ugli Posadki, the times for the angles of attack of the Landing Apparatus in case of an eventual emergency return to earth. Further orbit corrections: not planned for the near future.
Progress-M1 number. 2: The launch of this freighter is provisionally scheduled for the night from 25 to 26.04.2000.
Spacewalk (EVA): Also on very provisional basis planned for 11.05.2000.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
This freighter with on board supplies of air, water and fuel for the Mir-station departed from Baykonur to Mir on 25.04.00 at 20.08.02 UTC. The freighter had to dock at Mir on 27.04.00 at about 2130 UTC , so 10 minutes after Mir and Progress M1-2 for us in Western Europe had disappeared behind the eastern horizon.
Progress M1-1: This old freighter separated from Mir on 26.04.00 at 1633 UTC for decay over the Pacific east of New Zealand at 1927 UTC.
Docking Progress M1-2: Approach and docking were executed with the help of the system Kurs. All went flawlessly and smoothly. The freighter docked at the aft docking port (Kvant-2 +X axis) on 27.04.00 at 21.28.48 UTC. During the pass for Western Europe just before the docking (orbit 81124, 2116-2121 UTC) radio traffic revealed that all was going well. Just before LOS for my position the distance to the docking part was 60 Meters and Progress M1-2 was proceeding exactly on course.
During the next pass for my position in orb. 81125, 2252-2258 UTC, the crew reported that they just had opened the hatches to Progress M1-2. The equalisation of the pressures between the station and the freighter lasted long this time. Kaleri said that the cargo bay of the Progress M1-2 was only half full. The air-seal was in good order, but there had been some variations in the air pressure, which in his opinion were caused by the differences in temperature. In 30 minutes the pressure decreased by 4 MM mercury, and then the decrease stopped. At last the pressure inside the station was 687 MM. The crew still had to install the clamps between the Progress M1-2 and the Kvant-1 docking port. These clamps make it impossible for the freighter to wander away.
Meanwhile the control computer Svet had been switched on and Kaleri loaded a number of commands into Svet for the automatic control of a number of systems.
Then the cosmonauts crept into their sleeping-bags. (The bunks for eventual tourists did not yet arrive.). For your scribe a good reason to lay down in the arms of Morpheus.
Orbit corrections: The strong solar maximum causes an increased decay of the orbit altitude of the Mir-space station. Some time ago this decay was about 100 or 150 Meters a day, now this is 4 or 5 times more. The only solution is to lift the orbit of the complex by the use of the engines of the PrM-1 (mostly this is the DPO, the engine for docking and orientation of the freighter is used for that purpose), but once the engines of the Soyuz-TM30 were used (on17.04). Later some more corrections had been given by the DPO of Progress M1-1. So it was difficult to calculate accurate orbit predictions.
Just before the separation of the Progress M1-1 from the complex on 26.04 the DPO of that ship gave another impulse to lift the complex.
More orbit corrections can be expected during the next days, now with the help of the DPO of Progress M1-2.
The acceleration of the decay of the station causes anxiety at TsUP. More even than the possibly still existing small air leaks in the station. This also means that more money has to be reserved in the budget of the "users" for extra fuel.
From the beginning of the 28th Main Expedition the crew has been very busy with air-seal checks in several compartments and modules. This search was intensified on 18 and 19.04.00. The crew worked with special equipment, which had been brought to the station together with the present crew. They spoke about an instrument called Bar and a thermo-hygrometer. The cosmonauts had to disconnect cables in the PKhO (the transition section) to make it possible to close the hatches through which these cables are deployed. The co-ordination with TsUP during these activities was very good and all went well during this risky work.
On 18.04 the crew almost knew where the small leak was and when they were sure about the location they closed or plugged the leak with a cap of stopper. During traffic in the pass on 19.04 in orbit 80988, 0701-0721 UTC TsUP and the crew discussed what kind of plug they should use. In the next pass (orb. 80989, 0834-0841 UTC) Kaleri reported that the "hissing sound ceased".
Thus far it is not fully clear whether this leakage was the only one. Some of the experts at TsUP were not sure for 100%. The air-pressure checks are still going on, but less intensive than before the detection of the leak. The leak was in a valve in the hatch between the PkhO and the &"vacuumed"; module Spektr.
To be honest the crew of this expedition and the experts at TsUP did a great job during the last weeks. In the first place there was the reactivation of the important life support systems, but also the fact that they managed to keep these systems operational and succeeded in the detection of that small leak and the liquidation of that problem.
And let us not forget the flawless automatic approach and docking of the Progress M1-2 which had been equipped by a better system Kurs.
But another fact is less positive: nobody is queuing up in front of the desks where tourists can book a trip to the Mir-space station. And thus far there has not been a single satellite begging Mir for repair or maintenance. In fact a very good thing for the brave crew of Mir will need all their time to keep their iron lung operational.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
On 12.05.2000 the crew of the 28th M.E. to Mir will make an EVA. The beginning of EVA is at 1040UTC (opening of the hatch) and the end at 1605UTC (closing hatch). The cosmonauts will have to carry out a lot of tasks, i.e. the 'sealing' of a little slit in the hull of the base block and the execution of a panorama inspection of the outside of the complex. The crew will use a device called 'Germatizator' and will also dismantle a solar battery from the outside of the Kvant-1 module.
During the last week main subjects during radio contacts were the preparations for the oncoming EVA , such as the airtight checks of the available space suits, and checks of all equipment needed during the EVA, the air seal of connections, the status of valves, oxygen and other tanks and the radio communications system Tranzit.
Almost the whole EVA will be made before Mir comes in range of Western Europe. Possibly the closure of the hatch will just take place during the first pass in orbit 81356, 1605-1613UTC. During the following communication sessions the crew can be monitored during their post-EVA activities.
On 4.05 Zalyotin read out a salute to a recently opened youth forum about subjects like WW-2 and the victory over fascism. Activities during this forum were sports estafettes by representatives of patriotic military clubs. Zalyotin sent the best wishes to the participants.
On 7.05, after the conversations about the next EVA the last communication session was concluded by the TV- or radio broadcast of the inauguration of President Putin. His promise to rule the country in an 'honest and open way' could be heard loud and clear via the 'uplink' channel in the background.
Experiments: In the past 2 weeks now and then the cosmonauts worked on experiments. They spoke about original Russian experiments , for which the 'hardware' is still on board of the station. For the time being it is still unclear who will pay for these experiments and if so, whether this is in the benefit of the shareholders of Mircorp. The crew was executing experiments like the Orangerie (greenhouse), Doza (measurements of the radiation levels on board), Dakon (a liquid convection meter), Optovert, Indikator, etc.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
The cosmonauts executed this EVA flawlessly on 12.05.2000 and they did this well within the planned time. The cosmonauts entered open space via the air-lock (ShSO.) of Kvant-2 (Module-D) at 1044UTC and closed the hatch after their return at 1536UTC.
The 'germatizator-experiment', the use of a special glue to seal off cracks or damages at the outside surface of the complex, was executed according to plan. The following activity was the inspection of a malfunctioning solar battery on the Kvant-1 (Module-E). Problem with this solar battery was that it was impossible to turn the panel into the most effective angle towards the sun. The cosmonauts found out that the steering cable to the rotor of the solar battery was burnt through during a short-circuit. The cosmonauts made images of the cable. During the future exploitation the Russians will have to work without power produced by that solar battery. Flight control regrets this very much, but it is no disaster for there are still 9 well working solar batteries. Thereafter the cosmonauts dismantled an experimental solar battery from the outer surface of the SO (docking compartment). This experimental panel consisted of very thin material.
The last activity was the so called panorama-inspection, making images of the outside of the complex to enable specialist to analyse the effects of ageing of the material. The new freighter Progress-M1-2 was also inserted in this inspection.
When Mir came in range for Western-Europe during orbit 81356, 1609-1615UTC, the cosmonauts were inside the air-lock. Kaleri clearly reported about the status of the damaged steering cable. He had observed how the short-circuit had burnt through the insulation over a considerable length.
Radio traffic during the next orbit (81357, 1740-1751UTC) began with a contact of the crew with the tracking station of the DLR (GSOC) Oberpfaffenhofen near Munich. In English the crew transmitted greetings to the operators at GSOC and expressed their gratitude for the assistance. It was clear that GSOC had problems with the communications with TsUP Moscow and was not able to relay Mir's traffic. The short contact did not reveal whether the appearance of GSOC had been spontaneous or had been officially planned. It was encouraging to hear that this assistance was still possible. It might be that the staff of GSOC in this way gets the opportunity to train on these communications, just like NASA already does with the staff of some tracking facilities with a view to the future International Space station.
Radio traffic during this and the next pass was related to the situation after the return on board of the complex. The cosmonauts had some problems with condensation on the glass of their helmets, This had been caused by transpiration during the strenuous work to close the hatch of the air-lock. After connection the space suits to the power supply of the complex and switching on extra cooling, the condensation disappeared.
The crew promised to transmit to earth the images of the damaged steering cable as soon as possible.
After the EVA the air pressure in the complex had decreased to 662 mm Mercury. (Before the EVA the pressure had been 684 mm.) This is quite normal for during an EVA a lot of air is flowing away into open space.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
The cosmonauts entered open space via the air-lock of Kvant-2 at 10:44 GMT. The Germatizator experiment, the use of a special glue to seal off cracks on the outside surface of the complex, was executed according to plan. An inspection of a malfunctioning solar panel on Kvant-1showed that the steering cable to the rotor was burnt through due to a short-circuit and was beyond repair. The cosmonauts dismantled an experimental lightweight solar battery from the outer surface of the SO docking compartment. The last activity was the panorama-inspection, making images of the outside of the complex to enable specialist to analyse the effects of ageing of the material. The hatch was closed on what might have been the last spacewalk on Mir at 15:36 GMT.
These days a huge amount of 'news' about Mir is reaching us. This news comes from different sources. Regretfully the enumerated facts are not always equal and even sometimes full of contradictions.
The transition of the Mir-exploitation from the Russian state to a commercial organisation meant to me that I had to change the way in which I used to publish information gathered by monitoring of radio communications. It would be incorrect to use that to put spokes in Mircorp's wheels.
Own 'observations' force me to take a lot of that what is published with a grain –and even sometimes 'ounces'- of salt. As an example can serve the information about the air leaks. The search for leaks and the air pressure checks still go on, but some days ago publications suggested that the station was fully airtight. On 25.05 the deputy Head of TsUP, V D Blagov, told the press that the certainty about this cannot be given earlier than next week when all airtight checks in the Kvant-module and the Base Block will be concluded. (Of all persons who give information about the state of the Mir-complex Blagov is the only one on which I rely for 100%.)
Another example of inconsistent publicity was the information that the crew would return to earth in the midst of June. So somehow the date 16.06 emerged. During a radio contact on 25.05 TsUP asked Zalyotin if the crew would have objections against the training for the return operations on 5.06. Zalyotin said that there were no objections, but that he would like to hear when the return was scheduled. TsUP uttered the possibility that this would be 16.06, but that this question was still under consideration. A spokesman at TsUP declared, also on 25.05, that there had not yet been a decision about the date of return and that a prolongation of the flight was still an option.
Stakhanovtsy: In the decade between 1930 and 1940 workers in the S.U. who managed to produce more than the plan demanded, got the title of honour 'Stakhanovets'. A tovarishch with that name was the first 'hero' in that respect. The present crew on board Mir is working so hard that it seems as if they try to achieve the title 'Stakhanovtsy'. The present dense radio traffic makes it clear that the crew is working extremely hard. Among the activities to prepare the complex for the oncoming autonomous flight they have to execute a lot of experiments, but they also continue repairs and the replacement of equipment and parts , like filters, ventilators, cables, pumps, valves, etc. A lot of time has to be invested in those activities and often the time-tables and schedules (the so-called cyclograms) cannot be used. Not all repairs are feasible.
The most attention has to be given to the life-support systems. The air pressure checks go on and with the instrument Bar the cosmonauts use temperature and humidity sensors to detect tiny air streams in the Module Kvant and the Base Block. After the EVA on 12.05 the airlock of Module-D (the ShSO.) got extra checks. With Bar they searched near the portholes and an air valve, the KSD. The crew has also worked on the pipes for the heating system KOB. Using the Germatizator glue and tape (possibly metallic) they sealed off leaks and cracks in those pipes.
On 20.5.2000 during the pass in orbit 81479, 1243-1247UTC, Zalyotin reported that the air-pressure was 664 MM Mercury and also that they just had burnt 3 cartridges. (These are lithium perchloride cartridges to produce extra oxygen. Possibly the Elektrons are not fully utilized due to the failure of the crucial solar battery on Kvant-1).
Experiments: The crew spoke about the experiments Optovert, Linza, Pelena, Prochnostj, Indikator and the medical ones in the MK-series, and they carried out experiments in the greenhouse Svet or Orangery. On 24, 25 and 26.05 the crew transmitted TV-images or video-films to TsUP. To adjust or aim the cameras, among which the LIV, Zalyotin had to go into the Module-Kristall. Files containing results of experiments are transmitted to earth via the telemetry system with the modem or interface BITS.
Communications: These are very intensive, especially because of the fact that all passes now take place within the normal working hours. Due to the limited communications infrastructure the Russians have to use every available communications window (Oberpfaffenhofn, White Sands, Dryden and Wallops do not play a role during this expedition). It is quite normal that I daily produce 4 or 5 pages A-4 with written translations of radio communications.
And last but not least: Information of TsUP on 26.05.2000 at 0900UTC. Provisional date of return of Zalyotin and Kaleri with the Soyuz-TM30 on 9.06.2000 with alternative: 14.06.2000. But I beg you all: don't blame me if this will not come true.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202.
The descent module of the S-TM30 with on board the crew of Mir's Main Expedition (ME) number 28, consisting of Zalyotin and Kaleri, made a safe landing 45 KM South East of Arkalyk in Kazakhstan (there were reports in which the direction was given as north-west) on 16.06 at 0044UTC. The condition of the cosmonauts was excellent and after a short stop in Astana they were flown to the air base Chkalovo near Star City Moscow.
So the first so called fully private-funded Mir expedition came to an end.
The return operation has been executed flawlessly: the moment of the landing was the same as the estimated touchdown time and this was also the case with the landing position. The closing of the hatches took place on 15.06 at 1817UTC as predicted. Only the undocking time derived from the given prediction in previous messages. This had been caused by the use of Moscow Summer time instead of DMV, Moscow decree time: undocking took place on 15.06 at 21.24.23UTC instead of the announced 2022UTC.
Communications: For me in my position it was impossible to monitor radio-traffic during the return operations due to the absence of an Altair satellite over 16 degrees West. However, if there had been a delay in re-entry, the signals of the S-TM30 could be monitored over here during 1 or more passes. So in case this should happen I was on duty until the early morning hours of 16.06. As always TsUP took in consideration the possibility of such a delay and despite of the fact that there is no co-operation between the Russians and NASA in Mir operations these days, assistance by American tracking stations (Wallops, Dryden and White Sands) had been arranged in case of emergency. These stations would be ready to relay traffic between TsUP and Mir via VHF-2 (121.750 mc). During the previous expedition these stations had been used twice a week for Mir-communications to train NASA-communications personnel for future VHF-communications for the ISS. On 14.06 at 1454UTC such a training took place and a radio-amateur in New-Jersey on Wallops Island monitored traffic in Russian.
During the last weeks the Mir-radio traffic via VHF-1 (143.625 mc) was very intense. The passes mainly took place during the normal working days and the relatively scarce and short communication sessions had to be utilized as much as possible due to the full work program. With a few exceptions they also used the channel VHF-2 on 130.165 mc.
The lion's share of the communications has been done by Kaleri. During previous expeditions this almost always had been the prerogative of the commander of the expedition. Of course Kaleri being the board-engineer had a lot to discuss about the enormous amount of technical activities, almost until the last days, partly consisting of repair work and replacements, but he also spoke about topics like navigation (for instance attitude control commands) and other matters normally belonging to the tasks of the commander. Possibly the greater experience of Kaleri (this was his 3rd flight, that of Zalyotin was the first) played a role in this.
Main task of this crew has been to leave the station behind in such a technical state that the crew of an eventual following expedition would be able to start immediately with their 'commercial' activities. >From what I, among other things, could derive from radio monitoring, I suppose that they succeeded for a great deal in this respect. Systems, often failing during the last years, are functioning well, for instance the Vozdukh CO-2 scrubbers, the Main On Board computer, Ts.V.M.-1, the movements control S.U.D. and in general the gyrodynes and the chemical accumulator batteries.
Today somebody somewhere spoke about the 'successful renovation' of the station, but I categorically refrain from using this word. Even the last day they had problems with one of the Elektron oxygen generators and the crucial solar-panel on Kvant-1 is still out of order. Furthermore the complex has a lot of systems which cannot be renovated. A sea-going vessel can be taken care off in a dock, but this is with a space station, at least during this century, still impossible. I am convinced that this expedition was not able to eliminate annoying weaknesses in some life support systems, like heating and cooling loops, the air-conditioning and the oxygen generators. Even during this expedition the crew had now and then to produce oxygen by the use of those awful lithium perchloride cartridges. But for some weeks the Base Block and some modules of the complex had stable air pressures: towards the end of May about 660 MM mercury, and until now approx. 690 MM. The Module Spektr is still sealed off from the rest of the complex and though the solar batteries are still working, well the module cannot be used as a laboratory. Possibly the Modules Kvant-2 (D) and Priroda (I) still can be used, but these modules have been closed most of the time.
During the last days the crew worked very strenuously to conclude all what had to be done. This happened very disciplined and efficiently and there has been no stress or conflicts with earth. Until the last day they conducted experiments. Some of the experiments had to be dismantled, for instance the greenhouse Svet. They also spoke about experiments like Vibratiya, Dakon, Alice-2 and Prochnostj and they replaced the experiment Sprut. On the last day they still loaded software (disks and films with experiment results) in the 3rd free seat of the descent module of the S-TM30.
Mir-station unstaffed: As far as I understood the crew left the station in the same state as during the departure of the 27th ME. The 28th crew did a lot to dry the atmosphere of the complex. And Mir is flying the so called 'indikatornyy rezhim', free drift with a very little spin. TsUP confirmed this to me. (There have been messages that during the autonomous flight the Main Computer, the SUD –attitude control- and the gyrodyne's and all solar batteries would be operational). TsUP also said the analogue computer BUPO can be switched on if the spinning and attitude show too many anomalies. The thermoregulation systems, radio-command channels and telemetry channels remain in function.
The strong solar activity will have a great influence on the altitude of Mir, but this can be corrected by the freighter Progress-M1 nr.2. In August this ship will have to be dumped in the atmosphere to make place for the Progress-M1 number 3. Thus far we have to wait for which purpose that freighter will be used: to bring fuel and supplies for an eventual next expedition and to correct the orbit now and then or to act as a kind of 'suicidal hangman' for the good old Mir-station.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165-A-UK3202