Under an agreement made in December 1993, between the Russian Space Agency and NASA, from 1995 through to 1998, there was a series of co-operative flights, whereby shuttle missions to the Mir space station took place.
NASA updated three of the four orbiters (Endeavour, Atlantis, Discovery) for missions to Mir and construction of the International Space Station. Only Columbia remains unmodified to carry out missions other than to Mir or for the ISS on-orbit construction. The program for missions to Mir (called Phase I) provided valuable experience for the International Space Station construction which started on November 20, 1998. Not only were components (e.g. life support, solar panels) tested with the Mir complex, but the problems with ground orientated activities were ironed out. Furthermore, the articles that the shuttle ferried up upgraded and extended the operational lifetime of Mir till it was deorbited in early 2001. It saw an astronaut exchange program - US astronauts flying on Mir and cosmonauts on the shuttle (Sergei Krikalev has already flown on STS-60 in February, 1994; Vladimir Titov on STS-63 , astronaut Norm Thagard was on board the Mir space station from March 1995 till June 1995; astronaut Shannon Lucid from STS-76 was on board the Mir space station from March 1996 till September 1996 when John Blaha on STS-79 replaced her. Astronaut Jerry Linenger replaced Blaha in the January 1997 on mission STS-81.
Since the rash of incidents on Mir, US political influence questioned the wisdom of continued US presence on Mir. An assessment by NASA's Office of Inspector General provided some interesting insights on some events on Mir.
No more launches to Mir were scheduled following STS-91's mission. The mission history looked like this:
Mir Rendezvous ( STS-63)
Launched 2nd February, 1995. This saw Discovery close to within about 10 meters from the Mir complex in a rehearsal of the upcoming STS-71 mission.
Mir 1 ( STS-71)
Launched 27th June, 1995. This saw Atlantis dock with Mir for the first time, the orbiter carrying a Spacelab long module in the cargo bay. On board the shuttle for the ascent were cosmonauts Anatoli Solovyev and Nikolai Budarin (Mir-19 crew) who relieved the Mir-18 crew of Vladimir Dezhurov, Gennadi Strekalov and US astronaut Norman Thagard, who had been on Mir since March . The two cosmonauts and astronaut were returned to the Earth on board the shuttle.
Mir 2 ( STS-74)
This mission was launched 12th November, 1995. It saw Atlantis ferrying solar panels and a new docking adaptor to Mir. The adaptor was fitted in order to provide a more stable docking point for the shuttle and other vehicles. The docking module allowed a permanent configuration for the various modules connected to Mir.
Mir 3 ( STS-76)
On March 22nd 1996, Atlantis ferried US astronaut Shannon Lucid to Mir who began a six month stay. The 9 day mission saw the orbiter docked for 5 days, transferring supplies and equipment to the space station. An EVA by astronauts Michael Clifford and Linda Godwin transferred experiments to Mir. Life and materials sciences experiments were conducted in a Spacehab module in the shuttle's payload bay. This mission began the continuous presence of US astronauts in space on Mir.
Mir 4 ( STS-79)
September 1996 saw Atlantis returning Shannon Lucid to Earth during a 10 day mission. The shuttle was docked to Mir for 5 days; astronaut John Blaha swapped places with Lucid and supplies were transferred. The shuttle carried two Spacehab modules for various experiments.
Mir 5 ( STS-81)
Launched on January 12,1997, this mission saw Jerry Linenger replace John Blaha. Linenger will take part in a joint EVA on Mir in March '97. The shuttle utilized the double Spacehab module.
Mir 6 ( STS-84)
STS-84 launched on May 15,1997 at 08:08 UTC during a seven minute window. Docking occurred on May 17 at 02:33 UTC. Michael Foale has replaced Jerry Linenger. Atlantis carried a double Spacehab module. Included in the inventory was a replacement Elektron unit that generates oxygen for the Mir crew.
Mir 7 ( STS-86)
The crew of STS-86 created a website for family and friends who would be interested in following the activities of the crew. The website is not associated with NASA and provides details presently not available elsewhere for this mission.
STS-86 was launched on time on Sept 26 at 02:34 UTC. Docking with Mir occurred on Sept 27 at 19:58 UTC. Undocking took place on Oct 3, 15:46 UTC. Landing occurred on Oct 6 at 21:55 UTC at KSC. David Wolf has taken over the responsibilities of Michael Foale on board Mir.
The crew manifest for STS-86 was changed on July 30 and the launch date was slipped for the additional training David Wolf would require for an EVA on Mir during his planned 4 month stay on Mir. Payload and activities changed as a result of the collision on Mir. Wendy Lawrence flew on STS-86 but did not stay on Mir as was originally planned. She does not meet the physical requirements to fit an Orlan space suit for EVA activities.
A previously planned Mir/Atlantis crew EVA had been cancelled although an EVA by Russian and American shuttle crew members (2) took place to retrieve an external environmental package from Mir. The shuttle carried a double Spacehab module.
Mir 8 ( STS-89)
A night time launch took place on-time January 23, 1998 at 02:48 UT. Docking with Mir took place on Jan 24 at 20:14 UT. Carrying the double SpaceHab modules, this mission returned David Wolf to Earth. Astronaut Andy Thomas took over his duties. Undocking occurred on Jan 29 at 16:58 UT. Landing at KSC occurred on Jan 31 at 22:35 UT.
Mir 9 ( STS-91)
The launch took place on June 2, 1998 at 22:06 UT during a 10 minute launch window. Carrying a single SpaceHab module, this mission returned the final American astronaut to Mir, Andy Thomas, to Earth on June 12 at 18:00 UT.
Planned missions of Soyuz and Progress vehicles to Mir and Mir activities can be found on the Mir page.
The activities outlined above were visible to a large number of observers due to Mir's high orbital inclination (51.6 degrees). It made for interesting viewing as each mission the shuttle's approach to Mir could be followed.
Further details on Mir can be found here and on observing the shuttle here.
Resources and information for viewing other satellites can be found here.
NASA's Shuttle-Mir Web carries further information on the Shuttle-Mir program.
Links: to the VSO Home Page, the observing guide itself, observing Mir, observing the shuttle, the International Space Station program, the satellite predictions themselves.