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Mir Space Station

the first consistently inhabited long-term research space station

Launched into orbit on February 20, 1986, the station was almost continuously inhabited until March 23, 2001, when it was de-orbited. In total, Mir spent 5,519 days in Earth orbit, and was occupied for 4,592 of them. The only interruption in occupancy came in 1989, when a Soyuz spacecraft was damaged on the ground and rendered unable to fly, keeping the replacement crew from arriving at Mir before the on-board crew left the station.

the Mir Space Station as seen from 'above'diagram of the Mir Space Station, complete with Space Shuttle and SoyuzMir, which translates into English as "peace," "world," and/or "village," was constructed by connecting seven different modules, each launched into orbit separately. The first module, known as the Core, housed the main living quarters. All six of the other modules were attached to the Core. Five of the additional modules housed various scientific instruments, while the sixth served as a docking port for the Space Shuttle.

left: the Mir Space Station as seen from 'above'
right: diagram of the Mir Space Station, complete with Space Shuttle and Soyuz

Over the course of its lifetime, Mir hosted 125 cosmonauts, astronauts, and international crew members. A total of 31 spacecraft docked with the station during this period, including 9 Space Shuttles, as did another 64 unmanned cargo vessels. The record for longest-duration space flight was first broken by cosmonaut Yuri Romanenko, who spent 326 days aboard Mir in 1987. That record was subsequently broken by Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov, who spent 366 days aboard the station in 1987-1988. The ultimate record was set by Valery Polyakov, who was stationed on Mir from January 7, 1994 to March 22, 1995, a total of 438 days. Sergei Avdeyev holds the record for total time in space, 747 days 14 hours 12 minutes (over the course of three missions).

Chronology of Major Events

February 20, 1986 The Core Module was launched into earth orbit. Although not shown live, it wass the first launch of any Soviet space vehicle to be televised.

March 13, 1986 Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyev were launched to a rendezvous with Mir. It is the first piloted launch of a Soviet space vehicle not involving foreign participation to be broadcast live.

March 15, 1986 Kizim and Solovyev docked at Mir. After "opening the station for business," the cosmonauts ferry to the abandoned Salyut 7 station via their Soyuz spacecraft, where they spend two months gathering instruments and equipment before returning to Mir.

March 31, 1987 The Kvant 1 module arrived at the station, but the docking process could not be completed. During a spacewalk, Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveykin found a bag of trash, apparently left behind by a Progress cargo ship from an earlier mission, stuck on the docking port. Removal of the trash allowed the module to be successfully docked with the core. ["Kvant" is Russian for "quantum." The principle purpose of the module is to provide research in astrophysics by measuring electromagnetic spectra and x-ray emissions.)

December 1988 French astronaut Jean-Loup Chrétien conducted the first non-U.S./non-Soviet spacewalk.

December 1989 The Kvant 2 module was added, providing Mir with a large air lock, scientific instruments and a crew shower.

February 1, 1990 Alexander Serebrov used an experimental "flying armchair" to "fly" up to 108 feet from the station. On February 5, Alexander Victorenko flew 148 feet using the same device.

May 1990 The Kristall ("crystal") module, housing observation instruments and used for semiconductor and biological experiments, was 'installed.'

December 2-10, 1990 Japanese cosmonaut-reporter Toyohiro Akiyama gave live reports from Mir for a Tokyo-based television channel.

May 18-26, 1991 British researcher Helen Sharman, whose mission was sponsored by private industry, visited Mir.

mid 1991 The Soviet Union collapsed, leaving the future of Mir in doubt.

January 14, 1994 As a departing Russo-French crew conducted an overflight inspection of the station, their Soyuz TM-17 spacecraft hit the Kristall module at least twice.

October 3, 1994 Ulf Merbold became the first European Space Agency astronaut to be stationed aboard Mir.

1995 The Spektr ("spectrum," for atmospheric sensors) module was added, providing living and working space for American astronauts.

March 14, 1995 Norman Thagard became the first American astronaut to be be stationed on Mir.

March 22, 1995 Valeri Polyakov returned from Mir after a 438-day mission, the longest human spaceflight ever to date.

June 27-July 7, 1995 Space Shuttle, Atlantis, visted Mir.

March 22, 1996 Space Shuttle Atlantis dropped off Shannon Lucid for what became a 179-day mission. Her stay set a U.S. record for long-duration spaceflight that still stands.

April 23, 1996 The final module, Priroda ("nature"), was added.

February 23, 1997 During a routine ignition of an oxygen-generating canister, Cosmonaut Alexander Lazutkin suddenly faced flames. The fire was extinguished within 15 minutes, before major damage was done.

June 12, 1998 Andy Thomas completed a 130-day mission and became the last American astronaut to work aboard Mir.

June 25, 1997 During a test of the system that allowed the Mir crew to control the docking of the Progress craft, the 7-ton cargo ship veered off course and struck the station several times, puncturing the Spektr module. The crew, including American Michael Foale, was able to sever cables leading to the module and seal it off before pressure inside the station fell dangerously low.

August 28, 1999 Two cosmonauts and a French astronaut completed the last manned research mission aboard Mir.

April 4-June 16, 2000 Sergei Zalyotin and Alexandr Kaleri prepared Mir for its eventual de-orbiting.

March 23, 2001 Mir was deliberately de-orbited. The station broke up over the southern Pacific, and all large debris fell harmlessly into the open sea.

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This page was last updated on 03/05/2017.