Thursday, February 19, 2009

This Day In History: MIR

On February 19, 1986, the core of space station Mir was Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome. The station was made internationally accessible for 15 years through the Soviet (and later Russian) Intercosmos space program, as it performed about 16 orbits per day for 5,519 days, traveling 1,964,616,800 nautical miles.

Shuttle Atlantis Docked at Mir
Further assembled in orbit by connecting numerous elements launched separately between 1986 and 1996, the Russian-built Mir modules included:
Kvant-1 (Astronomical observatory)
Kvant-2 (Life support systems and airlock)
Kristall (Geo- and astrophysics laboratory)
Spektr (Shuttle/Mir Program experimental section)
Priroda (Remote earth sensing unit)

Notable Joint Milestones

In 1995, STS-71 Atlantis carried out the first shuttle docking to MIR. This 100th manned launch by the USA and the 5-day dock marked the creation of the largest craft placed into orbit at the time (225 metric tons, or half a million pounds), and the first in-orbit swap of crew members. Docking occurred over the Lake Baikal region of Russia, after which the crews carried out equipment transfers, joint life sciences & biomedical operations, and IMAX filming.

STS-79 Atlantis in 1996 was second flight of SPACEHAB, and the first Shuttle to dock with Mir’s final, fully-assembled configuration. Crews again transferred passengers, as well as 6,000 pounds of supplies and experiments, the most extensive to date. Shannon W. Lucid returned home on this flight after 188 days in space, a world record for a female astronaut for 11 years (surpassed by Sunita Williams on the ISS in 2007 with 195 days).


STS-79 yielded my favorite mission emblem! And this was echoed by the cover artwork of the "Mission to Mir" IMAX film the following year.

In March of 2001, the Mir was de-orbited in three stages, disintegrating during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, whereby unburned scraps plunged into the South Pacific Ocean.