A frightening moment in the history of manned spaceflight occurred
10 years ago this week when a Russian Progress supply spacecraft crashed into the Russian Mir space station during testing of a docking procedure via remote control.
The 7,200 kilogram, school bus-sized Progress failed to properly respond to braking commands and collided into a solar panel attached to one of the Spektr research modules and then breached the hull of the module itself.
As he had been trained, U.S. astronaut Mike Foale retreated to the Soyuz escape vessel. He soon left after realizing that his companions, cosmonauts, Alexander Lazutkin and VasilyTsibliev, had not joined him. They were trying to save the station.
Foale was aboard Mir as part of a $400 million contract NASA had signed with the Russian space agency for a series of nine shuttle-Mir docking missions intended to serve as checkouts of the procedures and techniques that would be needed to assemble the international space station.
Lazutkin, with Foale’s help, managed to sever cables to seal off the damaged module from the rest of the station. By successfully isolating the damaged compartment, the crew prevented the entire space station from depressurizing to dangerous levels.
Severing the power-generating solar panels left Mir with only about half of its original power levels at the time.
When the accident occurred Tsibliev was manually maneuvering the unmanned Progress M-34 cargo spacecraft in a test of the Russian-built Toru docking system
Tsibliev and Lazutkin eventually conducted a spacewalk inside the depressurized Spektr module to repair damage and reconnect the power lines.
NASA officials said the incident ultimately would prove useful lessons learned for the space station program.