Rendezvous and docking operations:
Begin Mir rendezvous operation: 18.09 2134 UTC TI Burn 19.09 0003 Arrival on R-bar (Earth radius vector) 0153 Hovering at 170 feet from Mir 0235 Begin final approach 0310 Atlantis docks with Mir 0317 Hardmate Atlantis/Mir 0337
For observers in Western-Europe the passes of Mir (and -the then being in a short distance- of Atlantis) begin during Mir's orbit nr. 60468 with a pass between 0307-0315 UTC, maximum elevation 11 degrees. So communications between Mir and Atlantis might be possible on the well known VHF frequencies. Whether there will be TV-images -for instance via CNN- or not is not sure at this point. If the Russians use Altair-1 (Cosmos-2054) over 16 dgs West images seen by Mir of the approaching Atlantis might be possible between 0230-0324 UTC. During the last docking mission of Atlantis (STS-76) those images could be seen via CNN together with images of Mir seen by a camera in Atlantis. It is also possible that the Russians will use Altair-2 (over 96 dgs East) during the window from 0306-0402 UTC.
Chris v.d. Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
The Mir complex continues to orbit earth as if nothing has happened. The fact that Mir is unmanned enabled me to visit some cradles of Mir in Moscow. As of 10.09 until 16.09 I lived in Zvyozdnyy Gorodok, so near TsPK, the Training Centre of Cosmonauts. Physically it is impossible to visit all institutes, KB-s (construction bureaus), factories, facilities, stations etc. , which directly or indirectly were or are related to Mir: in fact there are hundreds of them.
During our stay, Bert Vis was my traveling-companion. We enjoyed the opportunities offered to us to visit some of the most important institutes and we did this in a way strongly differing from the usual excursions with groups. Everywhere we were invited as expert guests and the treatment we experienced was in accordance to that.
One of our visits was at TsUP near Moscow. TsUP is still involved in a number of satellite operations of which the two most important are the control of the Mir complex and – though for a part together with the American TsUP in Houston -- of the ISS. The sections for Mir and the ISS at TsUP operate fully separated: for Mir the old room (well-known from the media) is in use and for ISS the modified room originally built for Buran is in use.
During our visit the Mir station came in reach of the tracking facility in Shcholkovo and from that moment on just a few of the operational positions on the ground floor, were occupied by specialists. From the telemetry on their screens they analysed the for them relevant data. Like in the past the orbit and position of the complex could be seen on a world map and we could read elements like AOS and LOS and which tracking facilities were active. From conversations with insiders we could conclude that the tracking stations are still staffed by military personnel and that in this way the Russian state supports the exploration of Mir.
We thoroughly discussed the future of the station, with specialists as well as with cosmonauts and in this way we got on the spot information about dramatic changes in the plans thus far.
Originally 2 Main Expeditions (ME) were scheduled for the beginning of 2001: ME29 with the crew Sharipov and Vinogradov to be followed by the relief crew of ME30, consisting of the cosmonauts Musabayev and Baturin and the tourist – so definitely not a cosmonaut- the American citizen Denis Tito. The knowledge of the Russian language of Tito is very poor and to convert him into a cosmonaut within the period of a few months is a ‘mission impossible’. We met the group of young cosmonauts and this made that clear for us. Meanwhile Tito paid 22 million US-dollars of a promised 50 million. This is not enough for the execution of 2 expeditions to Mir. Tito returned to TsPK on the 14th or 15th of September, but regretfully we did not meet him.
Now the decision has been made to appoint the original ME30 crew for the first and only ME to Mir, so in that case this will be ME29, consisting of Musabayev, Baturin and Tito.
The launch date of their ship, Soyuz-TM31, has been set for 18.01.2001 and the duration of the flight will be 14 or 10 days.
The logic of this decision is that Musabayev and Baturin speak English very well and so they can at least chat with their passenger.
In the week after our arrival we got this information from some well informed sources and on the day of our departure we met Musabayev who confirmed this.
The number of operators in the ISS-control room was also poor. Some TV-camera crews were walking about. The orbit and position of ISS could be seen on a monitor and the details of the communication windows were visible (AOS, LOS, etc.) Malenchenko and Ed Lu were doing their EVA and pictures were showed on a big screen. TsUP Moscow passively experienced the EVA-operation, for Houston was in charge and the communications took place by the use of TDRS-. We hope that this passiveness of TsUP-M now and then will be interchanged by active participation in the ISS flight control, but we fear the worst.
Our excursions etc.:
During the rest of the week we visited facilities like OKB Mashinostroyeniye, the former OKB-52 of the famous, but regretfully overshadowed by the glories and fame of Korolyov, Vladimir Nikolayevich Chelomei. In fact Chelomei was the real founder of the Russian space stations, Almaz, Salyuts and without him Mir's history would be different, not to speak about the actual Zarya en Zvezda. At Mashinostroyeniye we saw two real Almaz stations, the TKS , transport ship for the Almaz and a real Polyot., the first satellite that was able to manoeuvre in space. Our visit inside one of those Almaz was a revelation: what a room and what a perfect ergonomy. But regretfully we had to keep our cameras in our covers. A photographer of the OKB had got orders to make pictures: he shot 12 pictures of which ‘security’ accepted only 4, 2 of which on the premises outside –monuments- and 2 inside of us covering the most part of the TKS and of Almaz we saw a little piece of the hull while we fully shaded off the Polyot in the background.
The attitude towards our own photography of the State Research and Production Space Center Khrunichev was much better: we were not allowed to make photos of all objects, but were free to shoot pictures of the Proton under construction. We were standing on historical soil for until 1926 (the treaty of Versailles prohibited this on German territory) German aircraft were constructed and tested on the aerodrome here. So that what destroyed Rotterdam and Coventry in 1940 was prepared in Russia by the German specialists of General von Seeckt. But in fact a few years later the Soviet Union herself got in that way a biscuit of own paste.
We had personal contacts with a lot of old and young cosmonauts. The visit to the TsPK itself was very good: we saw Shepard and Gidzenko training in repairing something at the outer surface of Zarya in the underwater tank and, in the training hall for the Soyuz, Sergey Krikalyov was trying to dock his ship with ISS, while the ISS-2 expedition (Bowersox, Dezhurov and Tyulin) did the same in a second training module. And when you with a lot of other thinks can sit behind a real TORU, you have reason to be really satisfied.
A highlight during my stay was a one and a half hour lasting conversation with the famous professor B. Ye. Chertok, a constructor from far before WW2, who participated in all developments of Sputniks, Vostoks, Voskhods, Salyuts, Molniyas etc. A lot of the subjects discussed were very interesting for me: communication systems and procedures, electronic docking systems, for instance Kontakt, Igla, Kurs and even the brand new Kurs-MM. Chertok a strong man of 88 years, sustained the siege of my questions very well. As soon as I can find some time I will draft a summing up.
On 15.09 General P.I. Klimuk, head of TsPK, just returned from America, found 10 minutes in the late afternoon to receive me and Bert. We expressed our gratitude that we had been permitted to stay in Zvyozdnyy and he told us that he appreciated our work en our positive attitude towards Russian spaceflight.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202.