EUROMIR 95: lift-off for longest ESA manned mission
The longest manned mission in European space history got underway Sunday 3 September with a spectacular blast-off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. EUROMIR 95, the second joint ESA-Russian mission to the Mir space station, will continue into the New Year and will include the first spacewalk by an ESA astronaut.
The Soyuz spacecraft, carrying European astronaut Thomas Reiter and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Avdeev and Yuri Gidzenko, lifted-off at 11:00 CEST/Paris time (15:00 local time). The 50-metre tall rocket, trailing a long, flickering tongue of flame, roared away from the same launch pad used by Yuri Gagarin in 1961.
About nine minutes later Soyuz TM-22 successfully entered orbit and is on course for a docking with the Mir space station at approximately 12:30 CEST (14:30 Moscow Time) on Tuesday, 5 September.
The launch was conducted by the Russian Space Forces, with industrial support from RSC Energia. Following separation of the spacecraft from the launcher, control of the mission was handed over from the Space Forces in Baikonur to the Flight Control Centre (TsUP) at Kaliningrad, near Moscow. The TsUP is operated by the Central Institute for Machine Building (TsNIIMash) and Energia.
"This mission marks a major leap forward in European manned space experience," said ESA Director for Manned Space Flight and Microgravity Jorg Feustel-Büechl, who watched the launch from a nearby viewing site. "It will provide European scientists with unprecedented data on long duration space flight and further strengthen ESA's relationship with the Russian space programme."
The main goal of the record-breaking 135-day flight is to study the effects of 'weightlessness' on the human body and test new processes for manufacturing hi-tech materials. In addition, the mission will provide valuable experience for ESA astronauts and engineers working on the international space station project. Other highlights of the mission will include a five-hour spacewalk by Reiter on 20 October and the docking of the US space shuttle Atlantis, carrying four Americans and one Canadian.
EUROMIR 95 is scheduled to end with a landing in Kazakhstan on 16 January 1996.