Soyuz TM-31 delivers ISS' Expedition 1

On a foggy October 31, 2000, Russia launched the first long-duration crew to the International Space Station, ISS, opening a decades-long era of continuous human presence in the orbit around the Earth.


Soyuz TM-31 moments before liftoff.


Soyuz TM-31 mission at a glance:

Spacecraft designation Soyuz TM-31, 11F732 No. 205, ISS mission 2R
Launch vehicle Soyuz-U, 11A511U No. A15000-666
Launch Site Baikonur, Site 1, Pad No. 5
Launch date and time 2000 Oct. 31, 10:52:47.241 Moscow Time (actual)
Docking date and time 2000 Nov. 2, 12:21:40 (actual); 12:24 (planned)
Docking destination ISS, Zvezda Service Module, aft port
Landing date for Soyuz TM-31 2001 May 6
Soyuz TM-31 crew at launch William Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev
Expedition 1 backup crew Kenneth Bowersox, Vladimir Dezhurov, Mikhail Tyurin
Soyuz TM-31 crew at landing Talgat Musabaev, Yuri Baturin, Dennis Tito

Soyuz TM-31 mission

A Soyuz-U rocket carrying the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft lifted off from Site 1 in Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan on October 31, 2000, at 10:52 Moscow Time . Onboard were Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko, Sergei Krikalev and US astronaut William Shepherd. Gidzenko served as the commander of the Soyuz vehicle and Shepherd was the commander of Expedition 1 on the International Space Station. Shepherd and Krikalev were preparing for the mission since the end of 1996 and Gidzenko joined the crew in 1997. Despite an extensive experience from the Mir-Shuttle project, never before had an international crew expected to operate in space such a diverse set of hardware developed and launched by different countries, as well as to fly a Soyuz transport vehicle to the station. Also, the preparation of early crews was complicated by the fact that all the training had to take place almost in parallel with the construction of the station's components and their ground simulators.

As of mid-1999, Expedition 1 was slated for launch in March 2000, however, the permanent occupation of the ISS had to be continuously pushed back by the overall slippage in the project schedule driven primarily by the lack of funding during the development of the Zvezda Service Module which would serve as the main quarters for long-duration crews.

When the Zvezda was finally launched in July 2000, the Soyuz spacecraft with production No. 205 was put in stand-by mode for carrying the so-called "Expedition Zero" to the ISS, in case of problems with the automated docking between the Zarya FGB and the service module. After the Zvezda and Zarya docked successfully at the end of July, Expedition "Zero" was cancelled and Vehicle No. 205 was re-assigned to the Soyuz TM-31 mission.

Expedition 1 arrives at ISS


The liftoff of Soyuz TM-31 was ultimately set for October 31, 2000, at 10:53 Moscow Time, (2:53 a.m. EST, 07:53 UTC). The launch went as scheduled and the spacecraft separated from the third stage of the launch vehicle at 11:01:37.329 Moscow Time. The mission followed a two-day rendezvous profile to the station with the docking planned on November 2, 2000, at 12:24 Moscow Time, at the beginning of the third workday in orbit for the crew.

Ahead of the Soyuz TM-31's arrival, the Progress M1-3 cargo ship, which occupied the aft port on the Zvezda Service Module, was undocked from the station on November 1, 2000, at 07:04:49 Moscow Time. Three hours later, it was sent into the atmosphere to burn up.

After six orbit-raising maneuvers, Soyuz TM-31 performed a fully automated docking at the aft port of the Zvezda Service Module at 12:21:40 Moscow Time, slightly ahead of schedule. The final approach was timed to coincide with the passage of the ISS in view of the Russian ground stations feeding real-time telemetry to mission control in Korolev. The main control room of the center was packed with international space officials, journalists and relatives of the crew members who watched live pictures of the approaching station transmitted from the forward-looking TV camera on the Soyuz.

After docking, the crew opened the hatches separating the Soyuz and the Zvezda, entering the module's PrK chamber first, before opening another hatch into the main working compartment of the station.

Although in the previous two years, five Space Shuttle crews had assembled and re-supplied the nascent International Space Station, ISS, their visits did not last beyond a few days. (Krikalev was one of the people who visited the station in December 1998 during the Shuttle's STS-88 mission.) With the arrival of Expedition 1, the ISS became a permanently inhabited outpost operated by overlapping shifts of astronauts and cosmonauts lasting several months each.

Obviously, during its tenure aboard the ISS, the first long-term crew had to focus on a multitude of "house-warming" tasks, such as setting up living quarters inside the service module, tuning up its life-support system, power batteries, and communications gear, organizing permanent workspaces, cataloging available and missing equipment and implementing safety procedures. Expedition 1 also hosted three visiting Shuttle missions which delivered major components of the station, including the large P6 truss holding solar arrays, which arrived aboard Endeavour in the first half of December 2000 during STS-97 mission and the Destiny laboratory, delivered and attached to the station by the Shuttle Atlantis in the course of the STS-98 mission in mid-February 2001. In addition, a pair of Russian Progress cargo ships -- M1-4 and M-44 -- re-supplied the expedition in November 2000 and February 2001 respectively.

In the ISS flight manifest, the mission of Soyuz TM-31 was identified as 2R, denoting the second Russian-funded mission in support of the project after the 1R launch of a Proton rocket with the Zvezda Service Module, SM, in July 2000.

To ensure the immediate return of the three-member crew from the station in case of emergency, Russia committed to supplying the station with a fresh Soyuz spacecraft around every six months to serve as a "lifeboat." In the early phase of the project, the rotations of long-duration crews aboard the ISS were performed during short visits of the Space Shuttle, while Soyuz "lifeboats" were exchanged by the so-called "taxi" crews.

Under that scenario, all the members of Expedition 1 -- Shepherd, Gidzenko and Krikalev -- returned to Earth aboard Space Shuttle Discovery during the STS-102 mission on March 8, 2001. (At the time of the Soyuz TM-31 launch, the return of Expedition 1 was scheduled for February 26, 2001.)

The same Shuttle mission also delivered a fresh expedition to the station including Yuri Usachev, James Voss and Susan Helms. In the meantime, the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft remained at the station until early May 2001, when it headed back to Earth with the first "taxi" crew including Talgat Musabaev, Yuri Baturin and Dennis Tito. They brought the Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft to the station to serve as a fresh "lifeboat" during much of 2001.


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The article and photography by Anatoly Zak; Last update: December 6, 2021

Page editor: Alain Chabot; Edits: October 31, November 2, 2020

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ISS Expedition 1 crew logo.


Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


A Soyuz-U rocket with Soyuz TM-31 was rolled out to the launch pad at Site 1 in Baikonur on the morning of October 29, 2000. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


The tranporter-erector is retracted from the Soyuz rocket after delivery of the vehicle to the launch pad. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


Primary and backup crews of the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft (left to right): Sergei Krikalev, Yuri Gidzenko, Bill Shepherd, Ken Bowersox, Vladimir Dezhurov and Mikhail Tyurin. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


Soyuz TM-31 lifts off on October 31, 2000. Credit: NASA

mission control

Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

mission control

Mission control in Korolev during the docking of Soyuz TM-31 with the ISS on November 2, 2000. Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

mission control

Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak

mission control

Click to enlarge. Copyright © 2000 Anatoly Zak


View of the service module's rear docking port provided by a camera onboard approaching Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft on November 2, 2000. Photo by Anatoly Zak via TsUP TsNIIMash


The photo of ISS taken from the approaching Space Shuttle Endeavour during the STS-97 mission on December 2, 2000, shows the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft (left) docked at the Zvezda Servvicew Module. Credit: NASA