Payloads: Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE), Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN) 201-II, Robot-Operated Materials Processing System (ROMPS), Shuttle Plume Impingement Flight Experiment (SPIFEX), getaway special (GAS) bridge assembly with ten GAS experiments, Trajectory Control Sensor (TCS), Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue (SAFER), Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE), Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) III, Radiation Monitoring Experiment (RME) III, Military Applications of Ship Tracks (MAST), Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) II, Air Force Maui Optical Site (AMOS) Calibration Test.
After a night launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis, the Shuttle docked with Mir at 03:55 GMT on January 14. STS-81 transferred 2,715 kg of equipment to and from the Mir, the largest transfer of items to that date. During the docked phase, 640 kg of water, 515 kg of U.S. science equipment, 1,000 kg of Russian logistics, and 120 kg of miscellaneous material were transferred to Mir. Returned to Earth aboard Atlantis were 570 kg of U.S. science material, 405 kg of Russian logistics and 98 kg of miscellaneous material. At 02:16 GMT January 19, Atlantis separated from Mir after picking up John Blaha, who had arrived aboard STS-79 on September 19, 1996, and dropping off Jerry Linenger, who was to stay aboard Mir for over four months. The Shuttle backed off along the -RBAR (i.e. toward the Earth) to a distance of 140 m before beginning a flyaround at 02:31 GMT. Most of the flyaround was at a distance from Mir of 170 m. The first 'orbit' around Mir was complete at 03:15, and the second was completed at 04:02 GMT. Then the Orbiter fired its jets to drift away from the orbit of Mir. NASA's first Shuttle mission of 1997 came to a close with a landing at the Kennedy Space Center at 14:22 GMT on January 22 (after the first opportunity was waved off due to cloud cover at the Cape).
Test of new spacesuits. Retrieved and installed external equipment.