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Mir Space Station


The Mir ("world") space station was a modular space facility providing living and working accommodations for cosmonauts and astronauts during its fifteen-plus years in orbit around the Earth. The core module of Mir was launched on February 20, 1986, and the station complex was commanded to a controlled re-entry into the earth's atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean on March 23, 2001, where its parts either burned up or sank in the ocean.

The core module provided basic servicesliving quarters, life support, and powerfor those staying aboard Mir. In subsequent years, five additional modules were launched and attached to the core to add to the research and crew support capabilities of the space station; the last module was attached in 1996.

More than one hundred cosmonauts and astronauts visited Mir during its fifteen years in orbit. One, Soviet cosmonaut Valery Polyakov, stayed in orbit for 438 days, the longest human space flight in history. Beginning in 1995, the U.S. space shuttle carried out docking missions with Mir, and seven U.S. astronauts stayed on Mir for periods ranging from 115 to 188 days. These Shuttle-Mir missions were carried out in preparation for Russian-U.S. cooperation in the International Space Station program.

Toward the end of its time in orbit, there was an attempt to turn Mir into a facility operated on a commercial basis: for instance, allowing noncosmonauts to purchase a trip to the station. However, Mir was de-orbited before such a trip took place.

The primary legacy of Mir is the extensive experience it provided in the complexities of organizing and managing long-duration human space flights, as well as insights into the effect of long stays in space on the human body. As the Mir station aged, keeping it in operating condition became a full-time task for its crew, and this limited its scientific output.

See also: international space station; space program


Burrough, Bryan. (1998). Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis aboard Mir. New York: HarperCollins.

John M. Logsdon

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