On February 20, 1986, the Soviet Union launched the core module of the Mir Space Station into orbit. In today’s article, we’ll talk about the history of this space station and its contribution to our knowledge about space.
You can also watch our video about the station.
When did the construction of the Mir Space Station start?
The idea of the Mir Space Station emerged in the late 1970s. Having already launched a series of one-module orbital stations named Salyut, the USSR started thinking about building a multi-modular station for long-term use.
The construction process started in 1979. In total, 280 organizations worked on this ambitious project. In 1986, the Soviet Union successfully launched the core module into orbit, and in the 10 years that followed, six more modules were added to it. The core module provided the main living quarters for the astronauts, while other modules mostly contained scientific equipment. With its seven modules, Mir weighed about 130 tons and was the largest artificial satellite in the Earth’s orbit at that time.
What was Mir used for?
Mir was primarily used as a space laboratory for scientific research. The crew conducted about 23,000 experiments and studies in biology, physics, astronomy, and meteorology. The main goal was to develop technologies required for living in space. A notable example of an experiment conducted on Mir is raising the first crop of wheat grown from seed to seed in outer space.
The Mir crew also set records for the longest single stay in space. Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov lived aboard Mir for a single stay of 437 days, 17 hours, and 38 minutes. NASA astronaut Shannon Lucid set the record for women, having spent 188 days, 4 hours, and 00 minutes in orbit. The astronauts’ experiences had large scientific value and contributed greatly to the biomedical studies of long-term human spaceflight.
The station was also used as a place for international cooperation. Over its lifetime, Mir hosted 125 astronauts from 12 different countries, including the United States, France, Germany, and Japan. In 1995, during the collaborative space program called Shuttle-Mir, the American shuttle Atlantis for the first time docked to the Mir station. It became the first US spacecraft to dock with a Russian spacecraft since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.
What happened to the Mir Space Station?
Unfortunately, Mir’s history was not only about achievements and world records. The station survived multiple accidents, including a fire and a collision with the Progress supply vehicle, that threatened the crew’s safety.
Also, by 2001, the station’s systems were in a relatively poor condition and could fail at any time. It’s not surprising because initially, Mir was supposed to have a lifespan of only five years. However, the station was used for fifteen years and outlasted the country where it was designed and constructed.
So, due to a number of dangerous accidents, as well as technical and financial reasons, Mir was deorbited in March 2001. Most of the station’s parts burned in the Earth’s atmosphere; the unburned fragments fell into the “spacecraft cemetery” in the southern Pacific Ocean.
Although Mir is no longer functioning, it made a great contribution to the progress of the world’s space science. The station’s modular design formed the technological basis of its immediate successor — the ISS. The cross-cultural collaboration that is the norm on the ISS now also started on the Mir station.
If you want to learn more about the Mir Space Station, download the Solar Walk 2 app. It contains an interactive model of the Solar System, as well as information about famous space missions. Launch the app, tap the magnifier icon, and type “Mir” in the search field. You will see a realistic 3D model of the station and have access to more historical facts about it. By the way, only on February 20 and 21, you can get the paid version of Solar Walk 2 and lifetime access to all its content for up to 70% off! Don’t miss your chance!
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