Last year something amazing took place, but it wasn't in a laboratory. It wasn't under the ocean, and it wasn't on the land. It was in space. The docking of the United States's Space Shuttle Atlantis and the Russian Space Station Mir was an important step towards international cooperation in space.
This is not the first time the U. S. has been in contact with Russia in space matters. In 1965, an American Apollo capsule and a Russian Soyuz module were locked in orbital tango 245 miles above the earth, both crews tense with the feeling of peace and rivalry at the same time. In the past few years, American astronauts have used the Russian training facility at the Cosmodrome to prepare for work on the Mir space station. We couldn't give up the hope of peace and freedom.
Launch Day had arrived; June 29, 1995. During launch and ascent, there wasn't much to think about except the thrill of the ride. Then the tension rose. In less than thirty-six hours, they would have to close a gap of four thousand miles at an altitude of 245 miles while traveling at 17,500 miles per hour, only to have to move within three inches and two degrees of a quickly moving, very fragile object in space. One small thrust of a poorly aligned engine could cost one of four space-worthy shuttles and the world's first and only long-term space station.
Docking was over with soon, and was followed by the cosmonauts of Mir greeting the astronauts of Atlantis. Gifts of flowers, candy and fruit were given by the Americans, who in return, following a Russian tradition, received gifts of bread and salt. Knowing the importance of the mission, the Russians, as well as the Americans, forced the good nature of the mission to be seen. After an exchange in the crew of Mir, Atlantis disengaged the docking clamps, and returned home.
This mission was important to the future of the conquest of space, for the American scientists need help with the design of the planned International Space Station Freedom, and the Russians need help financing their space program. Both countries need the help of other countries and space agencies, like Canada, Japan, and the European Space Agency. With everyone working together, the future is more easily reached. As once said by United States President William J. Clinton, «We need to build a bridge to the future.» This mission is one of the supports that will hold up that bridge.