Soyuz T-15 was the first expedition to MIR station and the last to Salyut-7, closing Salyut era. Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyev took around 100 various covers and postmarked them with both stations pentagon postmarks in blue and black inks. The covers were signed mostly back on Earth and some received additional inscriptions. These covers are quite common in the “space mail” inventory and there is an opinion that many of them were postmarked after the landing, thus making it impossible to distinguish between the really flown and not.
Soyuz TM-2 – the story of the first official space souvenir cover.
American stamp dealer Kurt Weishaupt agreed with USSR Space agency – GLAVKOSMOS, to produce souvenir covers and postmark them in space. 1038 covers were prepared, postmarked in Moscow and delivered on Progress-33 cargo ship to MIR station along with new MIR souvenir octagon shaped stamp (that became the philately logo of MIR). All the covers were stamped by blue-ink octagon, signed by the crew and returned to Earth on Soyuz TM-3. There the covers were postmarked in Araklyk, numbered and signed by Dunaev – head of GLAVKOSMOS. 1000 of the covers were sold by Mezhkniga to Kurt Weishaupt, who in his turn distributed them between well-known dealers. The covers were sold for quite high price (and still available for $500-$700 on ebay.com). Interestingly, the original batch of covers was to mention Laveykin as MIR crew member, but before they were dispatched to Baikonur, Laveykin was grounded due to health issues and replaced by Aleksandrov to return to Earth. Almost all printed covers were destroyed and the new ones, with Aleksandrov in place were delivered.
from Russian Astrophilately forum
MIR SPACE STATION
A very interesting cover signed by 5! MIR visiting crews with relevant postmarks from MIR "post office":
19.08.96 - Soyuz TM-24 docking to MIR
19.09.96 - STS-79 docking to MIR
15.01.97 - STS-81 docking to MIR
12.02.97 - Soyuz TM-25 docking to MIR
02.03.97 - Soyuz TM-24 undocking from MIR
Note, this cover lists the original crew of Soyuz TM-24 (EO-22) that was replaced, but the signatures are of the flown spacemen aboard MIR
STS-60 was the first operational mission of Shuttle-MIR program that included a cosmonaut in the Space Shuttle crew and live communications with MIR space station. Sergei Krikalev became the first Russian cosmonaut to fly on the U.S. Space Shuttle when he launched with his five NASA crewmates onboard Discovery. Krikalev and his backup, Vladimir Titov, joined the STS-60 mission after the U.S. crew had already been assigned; however, Krikalev was able to take full part in the mission. His roles included manipulating the Shuttle’s payload bay "arm" and operating the Space Acceleration Measurement System experiment, as well as participating in the joint science experiments. Krikalev’s backup Titov would go on to fly on the STS-63 "near Mir" mission. Besides gaining practical experience on an American Space Shuttle, Krikalev helped further diplomatic and public relations in ways that hearkened back to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project of 1975 and pointed forward to the Shuttle-Mir flights.
The presented Apollo-11 25th anniversary cover issued in the same 1994 is quite interesting giving the direction of the “Next Step” towards the space station. Though not directly connected to the Shuttle-MIR program.
Quite unusual Houston STS-60 special postmark can be found on the dedicated wide format covers. It looks like a "fantasy" of one of the German dealers. Note missing word STATION. It is not listed in 1994 Postal Bulletins
Soyuz TM-21 flight was “the first” in several aspects. It was the first space flight upon Shuttle-MIR program that delivered EO-18. It was the first to have an American astronaut abroad for the longest up to date US space flight (115 days). During EO-18 there was a first ever Shuttle docking to MIR space station. The whole crew returned to Earth aboard STS-71 Atlantis.
Besides the achievements this flight was amid philatelic scandal that involved the German dealers and Russian collectors. Awaiting such significant event as US astronaut aboard Soyuz-MIR and first Shuttle docking, German dealers prepared to deliver “space mail” souvenirs to the market, hoping for a good value. In a couple of weeks after the launch such covers start to appear with six spacemen signatures. Those covers were checked by Russian philatelists along with western experts and proved to be forged. In a couple of months appeared another batch of “flown” covers from Soyuz TM-20/21 that was once again proven to be forged. Then came the covers from the STS-71 landing with Soyuz crew signatures and finally Soyuz TM-22 covers with original signatures but faked Baikonur postmarks. Following the allegations from Russian collectors, German dealers consolidated the position and blamed Russians on the deliberate sabotage and distrust….
The story was taken from Sergey Chizhov open letter to Cosmonautics News magazine in Feb, 1997
STS-71MIR EO-19 / Atlantis
Anatoly Solovyev and Nikolai Budarin were delivered to MIR on Atlantis Space Shuttle
Pseudo NASA VIP cards.
NASA VIP cards were the series of postcards designed and printed by NASA to be given to the guests invited to attend Apollo mission launches. The last VIP card was actually for SL-2 the first manned Skylab flight. There was a special VIP card for STS-95 the return to orbit of John Glenn. Just about all so-called VIP cards produced after NASA's last VIP card issue for SL-2 in May 1973 were privately printed by space cover dealer Carsten Fuchs of Germany. His cards, which include all Shuttle flights from STS-1, are in no way of any "official" status and can be identified by light-blue ink markings and usually on a heavier-card stock. I have a couple of such “pseudo” NASA VIP cards for STS-79 and STS-86 bearing special Shuttle-MIR docking pictorial postmarks.
more on NASA VIP cards here
Soyuz TM-11landing crew
This cover is quite symbolic - pure USSR 1982 FDC postmarked on MIR in 1991 just before the dismissal of the Soviet Union in Dec 91.
Znamya experiment souvenir card devoted to the 500th anniversary of Columbus discovery of America. The batch of 200 cards was delivered to MIR in Oct 29, 1992 on Progress M-15 cargo ship that served as experiment platform. It was accepted by Solovyev and Avdeyed who were EO-12 and also put their signatures. The experiment was conducted on Feb 4, 1993 by Manakov and Poleshchuk as EO-13, who put MIR postmark and their signatures as well.
Here is a couple of interesting points regarding Soyuz TM-16 flight:
It was the first and only Soyuz equipped with APAS-89 docking system, improved analog of APAS-75 used during Apollo-Soyuz flight. The docking was performed to Kristall module instead of Kvant module. APAS-89 was developed in 1989 for Buran spaceship, but later used for Space Shuttle docking to MIR.
According to my observations, this was the first time (or one of the first) that cosmonauts used personal stamps on the flown covers. Two stamps are present – Soyuz TM-16 emblem and Manakov personal stamp with VULCAN call sign.
Note - Interesting issue with the Soyuz TM-14 Russia-Germany space flight covers. Several such serviced FDCs of the USSR-Austria joint space flight were provided to the Soyuz TM-14 crew. They were cancelled in Baikonur, along with other around 300 mail items, using postmark with the wrong date – 17.03.91 instead of 17.03.92. This was done in purpose to avoid fakes and forgeries. On the reverse of the presented cover there is a perfect stamp of the mission emblem. The signees on the cover are Viktorenko, Kaleri, Krikalev (Soyuz TM-12), Volkov (Soyuz TM-13) and Flade, note his full name signature. Flade landed on Soyuz TM-13 together with Volkov and Krikalev.
Soyuz TM-17Kazakhstan postmark with error
"Ранция" instead of "Франция"
all the covers were cancelled in Alma-Ata and received Baikonur calendar postmark later
A couple of interesting moments re STS-76 mission:
Michael Clifford participated in this mission a year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. During the flight, he worked for 6 hours in the open space. Everything went well, but he told that it was not given to him so easy.
Another notable achievement was made by Atlantis crew member Shannon Lucid who joined EO-21 and EO-22 and stayed abroad MIR for 179 days, returning home abroad STS-79. She spent a total of 188 days in space that was an absolute record for the woman and non-Russian spaceman in general. The woman-space-stay record was beaten 11 years later by ISS crew member.
MIR Priroda modulelaunched Apr 23, 1996
primary purpose was to conduct Earth resource experiments through remote sensing
Soyuz TM-24unusual flown cover
It bears the names of the original crew on the emblem - Manakov, Vinogradov and Haigneré.
Signed by Soyuz and EO-21 crews, missing Shannon Lucid signature
The main controversy of Soyuz TM-24 flight was the “last minute” change of the Russian part of the crew, that occurred only one week before the launch. Gennady Manakov suffered from heart problems and the medical decision was to replace him and Pavel Vinogradov with the back-up crew members – Valery Korzun and Alexandr Kaleri. This switch caused a mess in space collector society and astrophilately in particular as many items bearing the original crew names (like covers and patches) were already prepared and dispatched for the launch. This also caused some increase in prices, as the developed story underlined the rarity of the event.
On June 25, 1997, the Russian crew including Vasiliy Tsibliev and Alexander Lazutkin, which just several months ago was battling flames on Mir, plus NASA astronaut Michael Foale, found themselves in the middle of the worst collision in space history. During a docking test with the use of remote control onboard the station, Tsibliev lost control of a tumbling cargo ship Progress M-34. The vehicle collides with the station’s Spektr module and seconds later, the crew onboard Mir hears a hissing sound of air escaping their vessel. Miraculously, almost instantly, the crewmembers were able to locate the air leak to Spektr module. After short struggle to find cutting tools, they severed the cables leading into the Spektr and safely sealed the hatches. The collision damaged one of Spektr’s solar arrays, caused a fracture that depressurized the module. Power restoration required two internal spacewalk in August and October 1997, which restored about 70% of the power capability previously available. The module was left isolated from the Mir complex until the end of the space station’s life.