Six Months on Mir; May 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Lucid; 10 Page(s)
For six months, at least once a day, and many times more often, I floated above the large observation window in the Kvant 2 module of Mir and gazed at the earth below or into the depths of the universe. Invariably, I was struck by the majesty of the unfolding scene. But to be honest, the most amazing thing of all was that here I was, a child of the pre-Sputnik, cold war 1950s, living on a Russian space station. During my early childhood in the Texas Panhandle, I had spent a significant amount of time chasing windblown tumbleweeds across the prairie. Now I was in a vehicle that resembled a cosmic tumbleweed, working and socializing with a Russian air force officer and a Russian engineer. Just 10 years ago such a plot line would have been deemed too implausible for anything but a science-fiction novel.
In the early 1970s both the American and Russian space agencies began exploring the possibility of long-term habitation in space. After the end of the third Skylab mission in 1974, the American program focused on short-duration space shuttle flights. But the Russians continued to expand the time their cosmonauts spent in orbit, first on the Salyut space stations and later on Mir, which means "peace" in Russian. By the early 1990s, with the end of the cold war, it seemed only natural that the U.S. and Russia should cooperate in the next major step of space exploration, the construction of the International Space Station. The Russians formally joined the partnership--which also includes the European, Japanese, Canadian and Brazilian space agencies--in 1993.