Trivia Break: Historical (and Unmatched) Spaceflight

>> Tuesday, July 28, 2009

flit asked about Lagrange points and I meant to get to them. But I'm swamped and it ain't gonna happen tonight. So, instead, I thought I'd pass along an interesting bit of trivia about one of the most interesting spaceflights ever: Soyuz T-15 and the extended stay mission that resulted, including sojourns on two different stations.

That's right. Two. Different. Stations.

Historically the Soviet Union (and/or the Russians) have been the experts at juggling multiple concurrent flights like no one else, and that goes double for space stations. They've had ten of them since 1971 and they have a sizable chunk of the International Space Station.

When they first put up the Mir Space Station, they still had another station up, Salyut 7. Admittedly, it was plagued with problems and funding was tight, making trips up challenging. So, they made the best possible use of the first Mir flight. First, the crew of Soyuz T-15, Cosmonauts Leonid Kizim and Solovyov Vladimir, docked to Mir, checked it out and got it going. Six weeks later, they undocked and cruised over to the Salyut 7 which was dead in sky, dark and ice bound. They revived it, got it back into working order and then removed a number of experiments from it's interior.

Then, as if that wasn't impressive enough, 20 days later, they flew back to the Mir Space Station and transferred the equipment they'd collected from Salyut 7.

Did I mention they did all this in 1986? Cool, no?


  • The Mother

    Fascinating. I had no clue.

  • flit

    me either. It is very interesting ... still mind boggling - the things they've managed to do with space travel

  • Jeff King

    yea that might be why their econ crumbled...

    just think how much it cost to do all of that... that would be interesting to see a total figure on that, i must look around. nice tid bit there. thx

  • Stephanie B

    Truth is, their program cost a fraction of ours. And they've had paying customers (including us). They've done more with less, seriously, but we also have our strengths.

    Actually, there's a great potential for learning from each others' strengths. Admiring someone's accomplishments doesn't detract from our own. And there's always something to learn.

  • Jeff King

    the best i could get was they spent $806.7 billion over 50 years...

    and we spent 819.8 Billion and our space programe generates 93 mill in revinue a year and is responible for 300 jobs... i wish i would have wrote link down it took me awile to trake it down... and yes they did more for less but over all cost was pretty close, and the sad part is we paid 400 mill into their space station and don't see the results they promised..

  • Jeff King

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Jeff King

    i think i wrote my numbers down wrong... but i know the total money spent was pretty close to each other, the big dif is we made our space program profitable.

    "Other benefits, not quantified in the study, include: state corporate income taxes, individual personal income taxes (federal and state) paid by those 352,000 workers, and incalculable benefits resulting from lives saved and improved quality of life. According to the "Nature" article, these 259 applications represent ". . .only 1% of an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 Space program spin-offs. These benefits were in addition to benefits in the Space industry itself and in addition to the ordinary multiplied effects of any government spending."

    In 2002, the aerospace industry contributed more than $95 billion to U.S. economic activity, which included $23.5 billion in employee earnings, and employed 576,000 people—a 16% increase in jobs from three years earlier (source: Federal Aviation Administration, March 2004).

    Just 15 firms that received an initial $64 million in NASA life sciences research added $200 million of their own money and created a $1.5 billion return on investment in the form of sold commercial goods and services during 25 years.[9]"

    here is our cost break down and link to info.. it was the easiest to find,

    to tired to track down the Soviet's it takes for ever...

  • Stephanie B

    Jeff, your heart's in the wrong place, but I don't see it that way. I'd be astonished if they had spent the same - all the estimates I've seen on flights and programs have been half or less of ours (and they've launched close to twice as many rockets as we have). Not saying your source is wrong, just that I'd have to measure it to what I've seen.

    The Soviet Union/Russia has been taking up paying customers since Salyut in the 1970s, and still do that, even for ISS (just as they did for Mir). They build hardware we haven't (we bought and paid for one of the Russian modules, several berthing mechanisms and a number of Soyuz and Progress missions that let us keep the ISS viable when we were down and out).

    The US space program has sparked a great deal of innovation, which is good. I'm all for our space agency, but we're not doing anything different than they are. Here, the government has paid for the development and the contractors have raked it in by finding markets for side products (which may or may not have anything to do with space). Agreed, it provides a lot of jobs but I don't see how that's different.

    But, whatever the totals for the history, I've seen and heard of the Russian space agency keep themselves afloat as their nation fell apart and went through an economic nosedive when bra factories and the like began paying in bras.

    I'm not sure what results you were looking for on the $400 million we paid for their Mir - we asked for nine flights to Mir and several resident astronauts and we got it. A Shuttle flight tends to cost about $300 million, so that seems like a bargain to me.

    I'm sure you could find NASA folks that agreed with you, but I'm not one of them. They've actually had manned flights that were privately funded - we haven't managed that. In my opinion, that's cold war nonsense. I encourage you to go to Encyclopedia Astronautica and read up about the trials they overcame, the challenges unlike the ones we faced (and, of course, many of the same ones). Perhaps you'll see if differently.

  • Mike

    Very interesting - did not realize the Russians had that many space stations. Thanks for sharing interesting facts.

  • Jeff King

    no i am not saying they have not done more with less.. all i am saying is they did about double oe even triple for the same cost in a total money amount. so i agree with you, but if it was not for the US giving money and helping their space program it would not have lasted through the down fall of the Russian goverment...

    but yea they did more with less money, that is for sure...

  • Stephanie B

    Agreed. Our support at a crucial time undoubtedly helped keep their program afloat when it was floundering.

    On the other hand, we got experience dealing with stations relatively inexpensively and they've provided things, like the service module, at a cost we couldn't match elsewhere.

    It's always nice when a business dealing is a winner for both sides.

  • Jeff King

    the more i look into their accomplishments, the more impressed i am... the did more than we could have... and their shuttle was reusible and more efficient.

    great topic...
    we are lucky that our commerce thrived off our space program, their down fall was the kept it secrect and goverment based.... amagin if what they could have done with our aerospace industry budget and open commerce

  • Stephanie B

    My boss pointed out that their lack of resources (including something as basic as a good waterway that would enable transport of really large components) drove much of their ingenuity. Not that we don't have our strengths - we certainly do, but many of their innovative techniques were born of necessity.

    You could say their limitations were, in some ways, their inspiration. And good for them.

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