The Little Known
Story Behind A Success
|The Story about two spacestations||
6, 1995, from 1420 to1433, the US space shuttle Discover docked successfully
with the Russian's Mir, marking the biggest space event after the first lunar
had moved into the lime light long before the actual day of the event. The
Discover was piloted by five Americans (including a Miss America) and Russian
astronomer Vladimir Titov. Late into the night on February 3, the Atlantis set
off in a cloud of flames from Cape Kennedy, Florida.
was fine as the Discover gradually caught up with the Mir in three and half
days. Titov was the first who saw the space station from 340km away.
shuttle was just 800m below the Mir, the control mode was switched from auto to
manual. At 1420, the 32m long shuttle further narrowed the distance into a mere
11.3m. At that instant, the two spacecrafts were traveling at an extremely high
speed of 28000km per hour! In the next exciting and yet dangerous 10 minutes,
the astronomers skillfully kept the distance in between 11.3m to 13.4m until the
shuttle finally left the station. As the public bashed in the triumph of the
first joint mission of the two countries, the people might not know that it was
in fact a narrow escape from a disaster.
Just on the day of
launch of the Discover, two of the propellers suddenly broke down, and the gas
N2O4 is leaking at a rate of 0.9 to 1.4 liter per hour. This perilous fact not
only reminded them of the tragedy explosion of the US space shuttle in 1987, but
also implied that the faulty propellers have to be shut down and greatly hinder
the accuracy in controlling the shuttle during the docking with Mir. The
original plan to remain static at a close distance of 10m from Mir might become
a mission impossible.
American tried to keep that a secret, the Russian still got the information from
a leak. Almost immediately, they broached up the issue to the US and wanted to
call the mission to a halt for the danger of pollution of the solar panels and
optical equipment in the Mir. However, accomplishing this mission would not only
provide valuable information for the joining between the Atlantis and the Mir
arranged in June, but also open up the opportunity of further collation between
the two superpowers and the final monopoly of the market in space exploration.
Therefore, rounds of intense negotiation commencedˇ
the astronomers on board did not give up. They tried to turn the two propellers
towards the sun, hoping that the heat would melt the frozen propellers. This
method usually worked well. Unfortunately however, it failed this time.
end of the first day, the situation took a dramatic change. According to the
ground control scientists, the problem was not as serious as it seemed. If the
leaking would not get worse, it should not affect the joining. Only until noon
time on the third day, the Russian eventually decided to take the risk and
approved the mission. And the two countries must feel blessed on seeing the
spacecrafts safely parted at the end.