On September 19 Atlantis docked with the Russian Mir space station. Aboard Atlantis in the payload bay were the Orbiter Docking System, the modified Long Tunnel, and the Spacehab Double Module, containing supplies for the Mir. Astronaut John Blaha relieved Shannon Lucid as NASA resident on the complex. Atlantis undocked from the Mir complex on September 23 at 23:33 GMT. Valeriy Korzun, Aleksandr Kaleri and John Blaha remain on Mir. On September 26 Atlantis closed its payload bay doors, and at 11:06 GMT fired its OMS engines for a three minute long deorbit burn. After entry interface at 11:42 GMT the spaceship flew across Canada and the US for a landing at the Kennedy Space Center's Runway 15 at 12:13 GMT.
The replaced RSRM-56 solid rocket boosters separated at 08:57 GMT. MECO (Main Engine Cutoff) came at 09:03 GMT, followed by external tank ET-81 separation with Atlantis in a 82 x 296 km x 51.6 deg orbit. The OMS 2 burn to raise orbit to 157 x 293 km was carried out at 09:37 GMT, and the payload bay doors were opened at 10:15 GMT.
On September 19 Atlantis docked with the Mir complex. The crew reported 'tally ho' (visual contact) at 01:07 GMT, after the terminal burn at 00:33 GMT. By 01:39 they were 3 km apart; twenty minutes later that distance to 300 m. The crew closed in to 10 meters at 03:03 GMT, and carried out station-keeping at that distance for a few minutes, before closing in again for docking at 03:13 GMT. The docking rings retracted and brought the two vehicles together for `hard dock' at 03:20 GMT. At 05:40 the hatch was opened.
NASA Official Mission Summary:
(4th Mir docking; SPACEHAB)
79th Shuttle mission
17th flight OV-104
Lucid sets U.S., world human spaceflight records
4th Shuttle-Mir docking
1st U.S. crew exchange
11th, 12th rollbacks
32nd KSC landing
William F. Readdy, Commander (3rd Shuttle flight)
Terrence W. Wilcutt, Pilot (2nd)
Tom Akers, Mission Specialist (4th)
Jay Apt, Mission Specialist (4th)
Carl E. Walz, Mission Specialist (3rd)
Embarking to Mir:
John E. Blaha, Mission Specialist and Mir 22/NASA 3 flight engineer (5th Shuttle flight)
Returning from Mir:
Shannon W. Lucid, Mir 21/NASA 2 Cosmonaut Researcher and Mission Specialist (5th Shuttle flight)
Orbiter Preps (move to):
OPF -April 13, 1996
VAB - June 24, 1996
Pad - July 1, 1996
Flow B (1st rollback):
VAB - July 10, 1996 (Hurricane Bertha; SRB changeout)
OPF - Aug. 3, 1996
VAB - Aug. 13, 1996
Pad - Aug. 20, 1996
Flow C (2nd rollback):
VAB - Sept. 4, 1996 (Hurricane Fran)
Pad - Sept. 5, 1996
September 16, 1996, 4:54:49 a.m. EDT. Launch originally set for July 31 slipped when mission managers decided to switch out Atlantis' twin solid rocket boosters. STS-79 boosters assembled using same new adhesive as boosters flown on previous mission, STS-78, in which hot gas path into J-joints of motor field joints was observed post-retrieval. Although managers concluded original STS-79 boosters were safe to fly, they decided to replace them with a set slated for STS-80 that used original adhesive. Booster change-out took place after Atlantis was already back in Vehicle Assembly Building due to threat from Hurricane Bertha. New launch date of Sept. 12 targeted and Atlantis returned to pad. Launch date delayed to Sept. 16 when Shuttle was returned to VAB due to threat from Hurricane Fran, marking first time Shuttle rolled back twice in single processing flow due to hurricane threats. Countdown proceeded smoothly to on-time liftoff Sept. 16. Approximately 13 minutes into flight, auxiliary power unit no. 2 powered down prematurely. After review and analysis, Mission Management Team concluded mission could proceed to nominal end-of mission as planned.
September 26, 1996, 8:13:15 a.m. EDT, Runway 15, Kennedy Space Center, Fla. Rollout distance: 10,981 feet (3,347 meters). Rollout time: one minute, two seconds. Mission duration: ten days, 3 hours, 18 minutes, 26 seconds. Landed revolution 160, on first opportunity at KSC. Lucid able to walk off orbiter into Crew Transport Vehicle with assistance, and later the same day received congratulatory call from President Clinton.
STS-79 highlighted by return to Earth of U.S. astronaut Lucid after 188 days in space, first U.S. crew exchange aboard Russian Space Station Mir, and fourth Shuttle-Mir docking. Lucid's long-duration spaceflight set new U.S. record as well as world record for a woman. She embarked to Mir March 22 with STS-76 mission. Lucid was followed on Mir by astronaut John Blaha during STS-79, giving her distinction of membership in four different flight crews - two U.S. and two Russian.
STS-79 also marked second flight of SPACEHAB module in support of Shuttle-Mir activities and first flight of SPACEHAB Double Module configuration. Shuttle-Mir linkup occurred at 11:13 p.m. EDT, Sept. 18, following R-bar approach. Hatches opened at 1:40 a.m., Sept. 19, and Blaha and Lucid exchanged places at 7 a.m. EDT. Awaiting Blaha on Mir were Valery Korzun, Mir 22 commander, and Alexander Kaleri, flight engineer.
During five days of mated operations, two crews transferred more than 4,000 pounds (1,814 kilograms) of supplies to Mir, including logistics, food and water generated by orbiter fuel cells. Three experiments also were transferred: Biotechnology System (BTS) for study of cartilage development; Material in Devices as Superconductors (MIDAS) to measure electrical properties of high-temperature superconductor materials; and Commercial Generic Bioprocessing Apparatus (CGBA), containing several smaller experiments, including self-contained aquatic systems.
About 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) of experiment samples and equipment transferred from Mir to Atlantis; total logistical transfer to and from station of more than 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) was most extensive to date.
During her approximately six-month stay on Mir, Lucid conducted research in following fields: advanced technology, Earth sciences, fundamental biology, human life sciences, microgravity research and space sciences. Specific experiments included: Environmental Radiation Measurements to ascertain ionizing radiation levels aboard Mir; Greenhouse-Integrated Plant Experiments, to study effect of microgravity on plants, specifically dwarf wheat; and Assessment of Humoral Immune Function During Long-Duration Space Flight, to gather data on effect of long-term spaceflight on the human immune system and involving collection of blood serum and saliva samples. Some research conducted in newest and final Mir module, Priroda, which arrived at station during Lucid's stay.
Three experiments remained on Atlantis: Extreme Temperature Translation Furnace (ETTF), a new furnace design allowing spacebased processing up to 871 degrees Fahrenheit (1,600 degrees Centigrade) and above; Commercial Protein Crystal Growth (CPCG) complement of 128 individual samples involving 12 different proteins; and Mechanics of Granular Materials, designed to further understanding of behavior of cohesionless granular materials, which could in turn lead to better understanding of how Earth's surface responds during earthquakes and landslides.
As with all Shuttle-Mir flights, risk-mitigation experiments were conducted to help reduce development risk for the International Space Station. Flying for first time was the Active Rack Isolation System (ARIS), an experiment rack designed to cushion payloads from vibration and other disturbances.
Conducted near end of flight was test using orbiter's small vernier jets to lower Atlantis' orbit. Similar maneuver may be employed at end of second Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-82, to re-boost Hubble to a higher orbit while still in orbiter payload bay.
First Launch: 1996.09.16.
Last Launch: 1996.09.26.
Duration: 10.14 days.
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
SAREX STS-79: During this mission there might be radio-amateur activities by the astronauts-radio-amateurs Jay Apt (N5QWL), Carl Walz (KC5TIE) and John Blaha (KC5TZQ). Sarex VHF downlink is 145.840 mc FM with uplink frequencies: 144.450 and 144.470 mc FM. Please do not use 145.840 mc FM for 'uplink' or -during Atlantis passes -local bragging. Chris v.d. Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202