The Shuttle–Mir Program
was a collaborative space program between Russia and the United States, which involved American Space Shuttles
visiting the Russian space station Mir
, Russian cosmonauts flying on the shuttle and an American astronaut flying aboard a Soyuz spacecraft
to engage in long-duration expeditions aboard Mir
The project, sometimes called "Phase One", was intended to allow the United States to learn from Russian experience with long-duration spaceflight and to foster a spirit of cooperation between the two nations and their space agencies, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos). The project helped to prepare the way for further cooperative space ventures; specifically, "Phase Two" of the joint project, the construction of the International Space Station (ISS). The program was announced in 1993, the first mission started in 1994 and the project continued until its scheduled completion in 1998. Eleven Space Shuttle missions, a joint Soyuz flight and almost 1000 cumulative days in space for American astronauts occurred over the course of seven long-duration expeditions.
During the four-year program, many firsts in spaceflight were achieved by the two nations, including the first American astronaut to launch aboard a Soyuz spacecraft, the largest spacecraft ever to have been assembled at that time in history, and the first American spacewalk using a Russian Orlan spacesuit.
The program was marred by various concerns, notably the safety of Mir following a fire and a collision, financial issues with the cash-strapped Russian Space Program and worries from astronauts about the attitudes of the program administrators. Nevertheless, a large amount of science, expertise in space station construction and knowledge in working in a cooperative space venture was gained from the combined operations, allowing the construction of the ISS to proceed much more smoothly than would have otherwise been the case.