1. What is this (blurred) thing that can be seen to the right of the frame in this photograph?

(some versions crop it out)

  1. It is a photograph taken from Soyuz TM-21 of Mir and STS-71 Atlantis docked in 1995.

(Soyuz TM-21 undocked at 1055 hrs, Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-71 undocked at 1109 hrs, so the crew of Soyuz TM-21 had maybe around 10 minutes to get these photographs)

  1. I have looked at numerous photos, looked at the various 3D models, and pondered obscure angles.

So far, given where the windows are on the Soyuz, I do not think it is the (pilot) periscope - which also has a square-like head as opposed to the round shape as in the photo.

Closest I can think of is:

  1. that the view is towards aft, and it caught the end antenna of the solar panel.

(except it does not look like that - unless TM-21 had a different kind of antenna on the panel tip?)

  1. that the view is forward and up and you see the rear part of the 2ASF-M-VKA, 1 of a pair mounted on the Orbital segment for the Kurs docking system.


cropped out:





  • and no longer visible


This is the actual Soyuz used for the photo opportunity:



'Solar panel wing tip antenna' is my current thinking, as I do not know what else it could be...

close up


other side


Different Soyuz with different tip devices.


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    $\begingroup$ I'm not knowledgeable enough to post an answer, but doesn't Soyuz generally have a camera on the front close to the TV antenna? It looks like a capture from the camera that caught the edge of the TV antenna. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soyuz_(spacecraft)#/media/… $\endgroup$
    – paulmrest
    Jun 24, 2021 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ I could be wrong but I thought the camera was for docking. Its a low res black and white camera IIRC. The photographs of the orbital stack were high resolution (well, hi res scan) and shot on film (probably 35mm) in those days. (Atlantis, coincidentally, used an IMAX camera for hi res filming) $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ See space.stackexchange.com/a/23585/6944 $\endgroup$ Jun 24, 2021 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ nit only: cropping is just truncation of the image frame; imagine using scissors to cut off one or more edges of a physical photograph. When the image frame is unaltered but one or more areas are whited or in this case blacked out, it's called by (at least older) photographers dodging or burning back when you'd put your negative in a photographic enlarger and print on photographic paper. In this case and in this century perhaps just "edited out" is best. $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jun 24, 2021 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ @uhoh thats fair - i did have an earlier edit that said 'cropped or painted out' but then had trouble finding both for uploading so knocked out the 'painted' bit when i thought i found a cropped one. Then i found the oddly edited one (with visible line, rectangular part between station and orbiter retained) and forgot to say something about it. I have no date for the edited picture - it may have been edited (seems like a rough background replace) on the computer rather than in the dark room. 'Edited out' would indeed have covered me for both hah $\endgroup$ Jun 25, 2021 at 0:01

1 Answer 1


enter image description here (cropped and sharpened)


its the probe.

I had previously counted out the probe for the following reasons:

  1. probe is always retracted in flight
  2. probe extends for docking only
  3. even if blister window is used, probe is not seen in flight
  4. blister window is really painfully small space to be taking important picture in
  5. my assumption was always the usual side window in the descent or orbital stages.

I assembled a rough 3D version of Soyuz, blister and tested with probe extended.

I previously had ignored this for the reasons above but now it fits - it becomes visible from the blister - makes sense since it is presumably to aid docking.

So, i can only come to the conclusion that the crew decided not to retract the probe because they weren't out for long anyway.

Or they forgot?

And it was easier to adjust the position of the Soyuz at this bearing compared to the orbital stack, hence usual side windows not being available.

(The sizes, dimensions, FOV and most things i guessed for measurements, a lot of the data i required seems hard to come by)


oh well, hope it was useful .. I think i thought it would be more exciting...


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