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From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Shuttle-Mir "Lessons" Hype
Date: 08 Jun 1998 00:21:13 GMT

This thread has just about struck out.

Let me be more specific:

NASA scientist says being on Mir allowed us to discover that the South Atlantic
Anomaly has been shifting northwestwards over the past several years. Is he
telling us that 1) no unmanned satellites noticed this? and 2) that the
Russians wouldn't have measured it if Americans hadn't been on board?

NASA scientist says that photographs taken by astronauts from Mir showed the
year-by-year drying up of the Aral Sea. Is he telling us that
1) the Russians themselves never take usable photographs out the Mir window?
2) Astronauts on 57 degree inclination non-Mir shuttle missions were forbidden
to take photographs over Russia?
3) unmanned photographic observation satellites "go blank" over this portion of
the world?

Or maybe, just maybe, the NASA scientist is ...uh, exaggerating is too kind a
word. He's blowing smoke up the public's bodily orifices.


From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Shuttle-Mir "Lessons" Hype
Date: 08 Jun 1998 11:46:09 GMT

<<1.  Send up a very weak trial balloon
2.  Thoroughly blow it out of the sky.

If this is all there is to tell then NASA hasn't released what it really thinks
it learned from MIR.  It also doesn't match up to a NASA release I read which
claimed over 500 items of new information received from MIR, but didn't specify
them in the email report I read.>>

These are the two LEAD boasts from Dr. Nicogossian, head of Space and Life
Sciences at NASA HQ. I hardly think I -PICKED- them to be a "weak trial
balloon" deliberately to make them "easy to shoot out of the sky". HE picked
them as HIS BEST arguments.


Bragging that "looking for Spektr's leak" was "good practice" for searching out
future leaks on ISS -- actually, it's useless blundering around that has
nothing to teach us. If you want to see how tracer gases will look, release a
KNOWN AMOUNT from storage canisters in the STS PLB and watch the measured flow.
Then try calibrated releases such as from the depressurized airlock through a
check valve with KNOWN cross section.

Getting an UNKNOWN amount to flow through an UNKNOWN-sized hole shows you

Second example of "manure" being listed as a TOP reason for Shuttle-Mir: "We
learned to work problems with our Russians partners". WELL, when I worked in
Mission Control, we learned THAT lesson in pre-flight drills, in high-fidelity
and intensely challenging simulations with other control teams involved in our
missions. Learning to do that was a SAFETY REQUIREMENT prior to even certifying
we were ready for flight. So clearly NASA is now admitting it SKIPPED this
safety standard. And regarding Mir emergencies, NASA learned only how to be
informed by the Russians about what THEY were doing regarding the emergency --
it was THEIR space station, after all, they were fully responsible for running
it and they did, and we watched and kibbitzed.

More examples? "Changes to designs due to the fire" were already IN the design.
"Learning how to manage long flight crew time" is something you learn in
pre-flight simulations. "Docking to big stations" was something we DID learn
pre-flight because they went as planned for Mir just as they would have gone as
planned if we had had to do them first on ISS.

These are CENTRAL claims for the value of te experience and I wish to dispute
them on this thread. Arguments??

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Shuttle-Mir "Lessons" Hype
Date: 09 Jun 1998 03:37:09 GMT

<<Well, Jim didn't exactly say it was easy.  He just said that what was
done in the simulation worked. As I said before, he is on really unsound ground
on that remark.>>

See my article on docking to Mir in Air&Space magazine sometime in 1996.
Orbital rendezvous and grapple/docking was my professional specialty in Orbit
Design in support of mission operations. What I said -- exactly what I meant to
say -- was that the Mir dockings were done the way everything else SHOULD have
been done: analyzed and practiced to death in ground simulations and training,
and then carried out flawlessly nine times, which showed that the ground prep
was adequate. Testing it on Mir was "nice to know" but not important for doing
it on ISS, especially since many ISS approaches will require entirely different
control techniques than did Mir.

Date: Sun, 20 Jun 1999 23:09:01 -0500
From: David K Cornutt <>
Subject: Usability of Mir (was: Sale: 70 Million a launch?)

Craig Fink wrote:
> How much further along would ISS assembly be if the US had taken
> Russia's suggestion to build off of MIR, using it as a stepping stone?

*Sigh*... Please don't think that I'm picking on you, Craig.  I'm
just going to use your message as a jumping-off point to get
something off of my chest...

I get incredibly frustrated when I hear people talking about how
we should be using Mir, or pieces of it, to build ISS.  Yes,
I supposed it's possible.  But the question never asked is:
what could be done with such a beast?

There's a prereqisite for building any space station, which is
that presumably it has to be good for something.  I think at this
time we are way past the point where space travel is self-
justifying, especially in the minds of the people who will be
expected to pay for it.  If there is to be a justification for
going to the trouble and expense to have people living in space
(and, yes, I do believe there is such a justification), then
there has to be something for space residents to do other than
just float around and take pretty pictures.  This may seem
obvious, but it gets forgotten in the heat of the moment sometimes.

Learning how to design and build large structures/habitats in
space is a good rationale, but I don't think it constitutes
sufficient justification in the minds of either the taxpayer or
the private investor.  (People in this group might not agree,
and indeed I might argue that point myself, but think of the
general public...)  In order to justify building ISS, it needs
to be good for something in particular.  Now, there are lots
of things it (or a successor) will be good for eventually, such
as tourism and a jumping-off point for planatery missions, but
in the short term the only realizable mission is to conduct
research, and this means payloads and experiments.  Specifically,
very complex experiments, requiring many things from the spacecraft
including power, data services, cooling, microgravity, atmospheric
support, and both crew and ground interaction.  This is a
short-term realizable goal; Spacelab has proven it technically,
and there is actually a fledgling commercial market in this
area.  But in order to perform this mission, ISS will have to
have a significant number of services built in and usable for
a wide variety of experiments.

This, then, is and always has been the problem with Mir: lack
of payload accomodations.  The basic problem is that the Russian
space program until fairly recently has had a completely different
focus and as a result they never developed a proper concept of
payload ops as a distinct discipline.  Therefore, Mir never had
more than the most rudimentary payload accomodations.  Some
years ago, I had a chance to ask Alan Shepherd a question:
"In terms of science, what do you think the Russians are getting
out of Mir?"  His answer: "Probably no more than we got out of
Skylab, perhaps less."  At the time I thought he was exaggerating,
but now that I have the opportunity first hand to design and
coordinate operations of a paylod on Mir, I can say he was
completely right.  So many of the payload services that we have
come to take for granted on Shuttle and Spacelab were crude
or completely absent on Mir.  Requests for things that are
routine on Shuttle, like a need for a continuous supply of
power with reasonable voltage regulation, blew their minds.
Microgravity?  Not too good, due to the way they used those
reaction wheels to control attitude, not to mention mass
concentrations of which they seemed to be ignorant.  Cooling?
If the cabin air doesn't do it, it isn't there.  Atmospheric
regulation?  Not only does it not exist, there isn't even
any data available on what the atmospheric conditions are
(other than some once- or twice-a-day readings on temperature,
humidity, and occasionally pressure and CO2), which tends to
invalidate results of life-science experiments.  Real-time
data and command?  Nonexistent.

This, then, is one reason why NASA was right to discard the
possibility of using existing Mir modules.  Many people in the
payload community have long maintained that, in order to be
a viable platform for payloads, ISS has to be at least as
good as Spacelab in all aspects of payload accomodation.
Today it appears that in several respects ISS is going to
come up a bit short, but if Mir modules were used it would
be a payloads catastrophe.  Spacelab has raised the bar in
terms of expectations for what should be able to be accomplished
in orbit, and any spacecraft designing group who hasn't had
experience with that environment is way, way behind any who has.

David K. Cornutt, Residentially Engineered, Huntsville, AL
Solving the Eternal Question: "Who is Kimberly Morris, and how
did she get her own exit on Interstate 65?"

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Will NASA stop Mir deal?
Date: 25 Jan 2000 14:07:10 GMT

<< The really corrosive factor would be all of the condensation on the walls of
the station produced by its human inhabitants.  Mir's environmental control
systems should dehumidify the air, but they haven't exactly had a brilliant
track record lately.>>

The system as designed is adequate but it requires free air flow along the
walls in an open plenum, to equalize temperatures and humidity. But all that
beyond-the-racks space is now stuffed with spare and excess equipment, and the
air flow is obstructed. Any plan to revive Mir has got to clear out this attic
and throw the stuff away (I -KNOW- the feeling!).

From: (JamesOberg)
Subject: Re: Will NASA stop Mir deal?
Date: 25 Jan 2000 14:04:58 GMT

<<Actually, it isn't just fatigue affecting Mir's pressure hull.>>

The hull is only ONE barrier against vacuum. Hatch seals are another. A third
area of concern is the jungle of vacuum lines running throughout the ship, to
various equipment, and then overboard to open vents.

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