Despite all the problems we had, I was in fear for just one second


Michael Foale spent 145 days on Mir space station in 1997 as part of a joint US-Russian mission which was marred by a series of near-catastrophic accidents. Here, he remembers life on board.

Michael Foale spent 145 days on Mir space station in 1997 as part of a joint US-Russian mission which was marred by a series of near-catastrophic accidents. Here, he remembers life on board.

I spent five months on Mir. Most of all, I missed my wife and son. The thing I focused on during the last few weeks was how my son was learning to speak, because I would sometimes hear him on the radio. He'd try and talk to me, but I didn't understand him.

I was surprised at how well the two different crews with which I was working interacted, in spite of obvious differences between us because I was from America and they were from Russia. Going in there, knowing you have to make this work, it's like when you get married, you have to make it work. There is an enormous commitment, maybe more than in marriages because it's only for six months, that a crew puts into getting on together. So it works surprisingly well. In fact, more pleasurably and more acceptably than I expected.

Despite all the serious problems we had, I was in fear for my life for about one second, [when a supply module seriously damaged Mir] and that was probably the case for the whole crew. But as soon as we realised a second had passed and we were still conscious, it turned into a situation of trying to find out what happened and try and do the next best thing.

One of the big things I learned is that the Russians are so resourceful and resilient. When they think they're at the edge, you suddenly find there's just a little bit further you can go. We found that especially, I think, when we were repairing the computers, because of the way they wouldhave us take boards out of a computer and put them into another to make a whole one.

I got the occasional Mir joke sent up to me and I told it to the crew, and we all chuckled and laughed. Everyone should be able to do that, no matter how serious or dangerous the job that you're doing is. I had to ask myself how long I would be able to cope with staying aboard, in the event that the shuttle couldn't dock after the computers failed. I was aware of my son developing, he was three years old, and I wanted to be back with him.

I had a number of extraordinarily warm, amusing, and funny social gatherings with the others after the accident. We would laugh. We would discuss what effects this collision was having on Earth, and we would puzzle over why it was so interesting to them.

When you have human beings living in an area that's small, you're going to scuff things, kick things, knock things. And things are frayed and worn out and we continually did repairs. Changing cables. Taping off cables. We had air ducts that kept on getting kicked and knocked down. That's something you just do all the time. It's no different from being in your house and picking up after your children.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Maths Teachers needed for roles across Berkshire

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ar...

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

IT Specialist for a one month cover role

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: IC...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits