Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Archive for the tag “culture clash”

Shuttle-Mir program

Shuttle-Mir program – http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4225/toc/toc-level1.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • Who was the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on the U.S. Space Shuttle?
  • How do you respond to a fire in space?
  • What would an appropriate backstory be for a character who served on Mir?


A history of the program that took American astronauts to the Russian Mir space station. Details on each mission, along with biographies of the crew. Also relates incidents during the program such as the fire that occurred in 1997 during the time that American astronaut Jerry Linenger was onboard the station.


Mir space station history

Mir space station history – http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4225/mir/toc-mir.htm

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What are some ways to resupply your space station?
  • When did Mir burn up in Earth’s atmosphere?
  • What was the purpose of the Kvant I module?


This is an extract from a longer book about the Shuttle-Mir program (http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4225/toc/toc-level1.htm). This section deals with the Soviet/Russian Mir Space Station, which came after Skylab and before the current International Space Station. It is a description and history from the American perspective and is put into the context of the “Shuttle-Mir” program. The American perspective is non-hostile, as this portion of the introduction shows:

The space station Mir became a legend in its own time reflecting Russia’s past space glories and her future as a leader in space.

The Russian Space Station Mir endured 15 years in orbit, three times its planned lifetime. It outlasted the Soviet Union, that launched it into space. It hosted scores of crewmembers and international visitors. It raised the first crop of wheat to be grown from seed to seed in outer space. It was the scene of joyous reunions, feats of courage, moments of panic, and months of grim determination. It suffered dangerous fires, a nearly catastrophic collision, and darkened periods of out-of-control tumbling.

The section on Mir is subdivided into short blocks organized around the various components of Mir: Mir Base Block, Kvant I, Kvant II, Kristall, Spektr, Priroda, Progress, Docking Module, Solar Arrays, Interior. These include pictures and descriptions of functions.

In addition there are chapters dealing with launch publicity in the Soviet Union, a description of how Cosmonauts returned from Mir and a description of Mir Expeditions 17-25, which cover the time of the Shuttle Mir program. The Mir Expeditions were scheduled to be six months and for various reasons some cosmonauts stayed in the station for more than a year. This could be psychologically hard and was probably part of the inspiration for the crazy cosmonaut scenes in the Bruce Willis movie Armageddon.

Two other sections linked from the Mir text deserve mention. One is “Bilingual Blues”, which examines the training that NASA Mir astronauts received in Russian. The quality of language training varied by expedition. According to the text, “Mir Astronaut John Blaha thought that inadequate language preparation was perhaps NASA’s “biggest mistake” of the Shuttle-Mir Program, although he became comfortable with Russian while onboard Mir.”

The section on “Long Duration Psychology” notes differences in training between astronauts and cosmonauts. In particular, Cosmonauts have ground training in isolation that lasts between two weeks and thirty days. This difference in training and the lack of psychological compatibility matching on the American side were noted as responsible for some friction on the station. It is a good read if your story includes small crews cut off from meaningful contact.

Marine Advisors With the Vietnamese Marine Corps

Marine Advisors With the Vietnamese Marine Corps. Charles D. Melson and Wanda J. Renfrow, compliers and editors. Occasional Paper. 2009. 188 pp.

Print – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/429210694

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What sorts of travel advice were new Marine Advisers given prior to their departure for Vietnam?
  • What could an adviser expect from his Vietnamese “cowboy?”
  • What type of terrain is Rungśat?
  • What sort of rations were eaten by the South Vietnamese Marines?
  • What were US advisers expected to do if their advice wasn’t taken?
  • Why was a sense of humor valued by the US Marines and Vietnamese alike?
  • How many different kinds of advisers served with Vietnamese units?


From the preface:

This occasional paper provides documents on the topics of the Vietnamese Marines and the U.S. Marine Advisory Unit from this period. William D. Wischmeyer created the reference that the unit and history was based on. As a captain, he drafted the “Vietnamese Marine Corps/Marine Advisory Unit Historical Summary, 1954-1973,” signed off by the senior Marine advisor on 22March 1973. Another valuable collection of Vietnamese Marine Corps material was kept by then-Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Lukeman when the Vietnamese Marine Corps Logistics Support Branch, Navy Division, Defense Attaché Office was closed in 1975. It and the other essential source material enclosed were sent as part of the Marine Advisory Unit’s command chronology, in the Gray Research Center archive, Quantico, Virginia.

Several documents from this work will be very helpful to writers of period stories or of formulating similar counterinsurgency documents for alien worlds:

  • Senior Advisor Brief
  • What You Should Know When Assigned To A Vietnamese Marine Battalion As An Advisor
  • Techniques of Advising
  • Standing Operation Procedures for Marine Advisory Unit (170 pages plus)

The first two documents are quick tip items. The Techniques of advising is slightly longer, with a long list of “dos” and a few pages of “don’ts.” The Standard Operating Procedures should be consider the adviser’s manual. It details duties of specialized advisers like Motor Transport Mechanical Advisor, Ordnance Advisor and Medical Advisor.

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