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This article is about . For , see Mir (disambiguation).
Mission insignia
Mir Insignia
Mir insignia
Mission statistics
Mission name Mir
Call sign Mir
Launch February 19, 1986
21:28:23 UTC
Baikonur, USSR
Reentry March 23, 2001
05:50:00 UTC
Crew 28 long duration crews
Occupied 4,594 days
In orbit 5,511 days
Number of
Apogee 393 km /244 mi
Perigee 385 km /239 mi
Period 89.1 min
Inclination 51.6 deg
3,638,470,307 km / 2,260,840,632 mi
Orbital mass
w/Spektr, Kristal, etc.
124,340 kg
Mir space station

Mir (Мир, which can mean both world and peace in Russian) was also a highly successful Soviet (and later Russian) space station. It was humanity's first consistently inhabited long-term research station in space. Through a number of collaborations, it was made internationally accessible to cosmonauts and astronauts of many different countries. Mir was assembled in orbit by successively connecting several modules, each launched separately from February 19, 1986 to 1996. The station existed until March 23, 2001, at which point it was deliberately de-orbited and broke apart during atmospheric re-entry.


The Mir space station

Mir was based upon the Salyut series of space stations previously launched by the Soviet Union (seven Salyut space stations had been launched since 1971). It was mainly serviced by Russian-manned Soyuz spacecraft and Progress cargo ships, however it was anticipated that it would also be the destination for flights by the later abandoned Buran space shuttle. The orbiting Mir's purpose was to provide a large and livable scientific laboratory in outer space.

The United States had planned to build Space Station Freedom as its counterpart to Mir, however this project was cancelled after the fall of the Soviet Union made an international cooperation possible (see International Space Station). In later years, after the end of the cold war, the Shuttle-Mir program combined Russia's Mir capabilities with United States space shuttles and allowed a couple of American and other western astronauts to visit or stay long-term on the station. The visiting US shuttles used a modified docking collar originally designed for the Soviet Buran shuttle. With the space shuttle docked to Mir the temporary enlargements of living and working areas amounted to a complex that was the world's largest spacecraft, with a combined mass of 250 tons, at that time in space history.

File:Mir reentry photo.jpg
Mir space station breaking up in Earth's atmosphere over the South Pacific on March 23, 2001.

Inside, the 100-ton Mir looked like a cramped labyrinth, crowded with hoses, cables and scientific instruments – as well as articles of everyday life, such as photos, children's drawings, books and a guitar. It commonly housed three crewmembers, but it sometimes supported as many as six for up to a month. Except for two short periods, Mir was continuously occupied until August 1999.

The journey of the 15-year-old Russian space station ended March 23, 2001, as Mir re-entered the Earth's atmosphere near Nadi, Fiji, and fell into the South Pacific Ocean. Near the end of its life, there were plans for private interests to purchase Mir, possibly for use as the first orbital television/movie studio, but the station was deemed too unstable to be safely used any further. Many in the space community still felt that at least some of Mir was salvageable and that considering the extremely high costs of getting material into orbit, simply disposing of Mir was a seriously wasted opportunity.

In addition to Soviet/Russian cosmonauts, Mir hosted international scientists and U.S. astronauts.

Mir modules

The Mir space station was constructed by connecting several Mir modules, each launched into orbit separately by the Proton rocket, except for the Docking Module, which was brought to Mir by the Space Shuttle.

Module Launch Date Launch vehicle Docking Date Mass Soyuz Purpose
Core February 19, 1986 Proton 8K82K N/A 20,100 kg N/A Living Quarters
Kvant-1 March 31, 1987 Proton 8K82K ~April 9, 1987 10,000 kg TM-2 Astronomy
Kvant-2 November 26, 1989 Proton 8K82K December 6, 1989 19,640 kg TM-8
Kristall May 31, 1990 Proton 8K82K June 10, 1990 19,640 kg TM-9 Technology, material processing, geophysics and astrophysics laboratory
Spektr May 20, 1995 Proton 8K82K June 1, 1995 19,640 kg TM-21
Docking Module November 12, 1995 STS-74 Atlantis November 15, 1995 6,134 kg TM-22
Priroda April 23, 1996 Proton 8K82K April 26, 1996 19,000 kg TM-23 Remote sensing module

Core Module

The Core Module provided living quarters and station control. It was equipped with six docking ports, and it served as a core of the multi-modular space station. It was launched on February 19, 1986 at 21:28 UTC from Baikonur LC200 with a Proton 8K82K. Its initial orbit had a Perigee of 387 km and Apogee of 395 km. The inclination was 51.6 deg for the duration of the station (and is the same for the International Space Station). The initial period was 92.4 min.

Although the Core Module resembled Salyut 6 and Salyut 7, there was also major differences between them. Because most of the additional instruments can be placed onboard "add-on" modules, much of the scientific equipment found on Salyut space stations were absent. It is equipped with six docking ports, and it served as a core of the later multi-modular space station.


Kvant-1 (means "quantum") was originally planned to dock with Salyut 7 , Mir's predecessor. The module experienced technical problems during module development, however, and it was reassigned for Mir. The module carried the first set of six gyroscopes for attitude control. The module also carried instruments for X-ray and ultraviolet astrophysical observation.

The initial rendezvous of the Kvant-1 module with Mir on April 5 was troubled with the failure of the onboard control system. After the failure of the second attempt to dock, the onboard cosmonauts conducted a spacewalk to fix the problem. They found a trash bag between the module and the station, which prevented the docking. The bag somehow made its way into the cargo before launch. They removed the bag and completed docking on April 12.


The Kvant-2 module was based on a TKS transport spacecraft. It contained scientific instruments and the crew's shower. It also contained a second set of gyroscopes that was mounted on the exterior of the spacecraft, and a new life support system.


Kristall was a technology, material processing, geophysics and astrophysics laboratory.


Spektr served as the living and working space for American astronauts. The module moved positions on the station on July 17, 1995 to its final position by the robotic arm aboard the station.

Docking Module

The Docking Module provided a safe and stable port for the Space Shuttle.


Priroda conducted Earth remote sensing.

Before, during and after the Shuttle-Mir Program, Mir was tended and resupplied by manned Soyuz capsules and unmanned Progress cargo vehicles.


File:Moonmir sts91 big.jpg
Mir and the Moon, two satellites of the Earth

In Russian, Mir (Мир) means "peace," and connotes "community." Kvant (Квант) means "quantum," a name derived from its purpose to provide research in astrophysics by measuring electromagnetic spectra and x-ray emissions. Kristall (Кристалл) means "crystal," and a main purpose of this module is to develop biological and materials production technologies in the space environment. Spektr (Спектр) means "spectrum," so named for its atmospheric sensors. Priroda (Природа) means "nature." Progress (Прогресс) means the same as it does in English. Soyuz (Союз) means "union," so named for the USSR (Sovietskii Soyuz, Советский Союз = Soviet Union) and because the spacecraft was a union of three smaller modules.

Around the time of the Russian Revolution a "mir" was a piece of land where newly freed peasants worked the land, and paid taxes. It was nearly impossible for these peasants to leave the land because then the other peasants would have to pay more per person.

International cooperation

File:Mirdream sts76.jpg
This image was recorded by astronauts as the Space Shuttle Atlantis approached the Russian space station prior to docking during the STS-76 mission. Sporting spindly appendages and solar panels, Mir is seen orbiting about 350 kilometers above New Zealand's South Island and the city of Nelson near Cook Strait.

In June 1992, U.S. president George H. W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin agreed to join hands in space exploration: one U.S. astronaut would board Mir, two Russian cosmonauts would board a space shuttle. In September 1993 U.S. Vice-president Al Gore and Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced plans for a new space station, which would later be called the International Space Station, or ISS. They also agreed that, in preparation for this new project, the U.S. would be largely involved in the Mir project in the years ahead, under the code name Phase One (the ISS being Phase Two). Space shuttles would take part in the transportation of supplies and people to and from the Mir. U.S. astronauts would live in the Mir for many months on end. Thus the U.S. could share and learn from the unique experience that Russia has with long duration space trips.

Starting March 1995 seven U.S. astronauts consecutively spent 28 months on the Mir. During their stay the space station went through rough times and several acute emergencies occurred, notably a large fire on February 23 1997, and a collision with a Progress (unmanned) cargo ship on June 25 1997. In both occasions complete evacuation of the Mir (there was a Soyuz escape craft for return to earth) was avoided with a narrow margin. The second disaster left a hole in the Spektr module, which then was sealed off from the rest of the station. Several space walks were needed to restore full power to the Mir (ironically, one of the 'space walks' was inside the Spektr module from which all the air had escaped).

File:Atlantis Docked to Mir.jpg
The American Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to the Russian Mir Space Station

The cooperation between the U.S. and Russia proved far from easy. Distrust, lack of coordination, language problems, different views of each others' responsibilities and divergent interests caused many problems. After the disasters, the U.S. Congress and NASA considered whether the U.S. should abandon the program out of concern for astronauts' safety. NASA administrator Daniel S. Goldin decided to continue the program. In June 1998, the final U.S. Mir astronaut Andy Thomas left the station aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The story of Phase One is described in great detail by Bryan Burrough in his book Dragonfly: NASA and the Crisis Aboard Mir (1998).

The Mir space station was originally planned to be followed by a Mir 2, and elements of that project, including the core module (now called Zvezda) which was labeled as "Mir-2" for quite some time in the factory, are now an integral part of the International Space Station.

Mir in popular culture

Expeditions, spacewalks and crews

See also


External links


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