June 29, 1995: U.S. space shuttle Atlantis historically docks on Russian station
It’s no secret that, for much of space-travel history, the United States and Russia were in a race to conquer space. However, their rivalry began to dissolve after a historic moment of cooperation between the two rival programs. When the U.S. Atlantis docked on the Russian Mir on June 29th, 1995, it created a bond between the two space programs that lasted for decades after.
The blast off of Atlantis
During an incredible, televised event for which millions of viewers tuned in, the shuttle Atlantis blasted into space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on June 27th, 1995. As breathtaking as the blast off was, it wasn’t the event that ultimately stunned the U.S. about Atlantis and it’s seven crew members. Rather, their admirable team-up with a Russian space station, Mir, amazed both the nation and NASA. NASA shared that it “kicked off a new era in international space cooperation.”
Docking on the Russian Mir
On June 29th, 1995, Atlantis approached Mir around 6 a.m. with the intention of docking on the Russian space station. The three Russian cosmonauts aboard Mir, who had been in space for much longer than the Atlantis astronauts, were more than happy for a little company. The crew broadcasted a number of traditional Russian folk songs while Atlantis attempted to dock aboard their station. It took two hours for Robert “Hoot” Gibson, Atlantis‘s commander, to steer and dock onto Mir without completely destroyed both their craft and Mir in the process. Even a slight miscalculation in the docking angle could’ve jeopardized their entire mission. Fortunately, Gibson was able to dock the craft without a hitch.
Making space exploration history
Once combined, Atlantis and Mir formed the largest spacecraft in history in orbit around the earth. Both his crew and the three cosmonauts on Mir celebrated this accomplishment with glee. The joyous occasion was marked by a handshake between Gibson and the Mir‘s commander, Vladimir Dezhurov, and a plethora of presents from the crews of both space crafts. After flowers, chocolates, and bread were exchanged, Atlantis‘ crew spent five days on the Mir conducting scientific studies with Mir‘s cosmonauts. On day five, they departed, bringing the original crew of the Mir home and switching them out with new cosmonauts.