Mir's highs and lows during 15 years in orbit
February 21, 2001
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EST (1713 GMT)
Once the crown jewel of the Soviet space program, the space
station Mir now floats in orbit alone with no crew and no future.
Now, after 15 years of breaking records and escaping disasters,
the aging orbiter faces an almost certain death. Moscow plans to
send it on a fiery, fatal journey into the atmosphere in March.
Among the highs and lows of Mir milestones over the years:
A Soviet rocket carrying the first module for the Mir blasts off
from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Immersed in the Cold War, Soviet
officials reveal few details about the station, saying only that
it contained six docking ports for spacecraft or laboratory
The first Mir crew, Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Soloviev, fly their
Soyuz spaceship from the station's predecessor Salyut-7 to the
The Kvant-1 module becomes the first addition to Mir. After an initial
rendezvous failure, the two Mir cosmonauts float outside the
station, find and remove a bag of trash wedged in the docking
port, and proceed with the docking.
Mir is again inhabited after a four-month hiatus due to trouble
with Soyuz transport vessels in Baikonur.
The module Kvant-2 is added to Mir. The 19-ton upgrade includes a
large airlock and improves spacewalking capabilities.
Japanese journalist Toyohiro Akiyama of the Tokyo Broadcasting
System reports from Mir during a brief visit.
Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev reaches Mir for a mission that
eventually extends more than one year and three months, in part
due to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Krikalev later became the first Russian to fly on the space
shuttle and one of the first three residents of the international
space station Alpha.
Helen Sharman visits Mir on a privately financed trip. A
chocolate researcher for a candy company, Sharman had won a
contest to become Britain's first astronaut.
A Progress supply vessel separated from Mir, unfurling a giant
foil banner. Russian researchers thought the technology could be
used to shine sunlight on Arctic cities during their dark
Mir resident Valery Polyakov survives a record 438 days in space,
enough time to travel to Mars.
NASA astronaut Norman Thagard becomes a guest aboard Mir.
Mir gains another module and receives its first space shuttle,
which takes Thagard and two cosmonauts back to Earth.
Ten years after construction began, the station is finally
complete with the arrival of the Priroda module.
Two cosmonauts battle a fire after an oxygen-generating canister
bursts into flames during a routine ignition. Vasiliy Tsibliev
and Alexander Lazutkin don gas masks and put out the fire, which
filled the station and their emergency Soyuz escape capsule with
Tsibliev and Lazutkin again face deadly danger. During a docking
test a cargo ship crashes into Mir, the worst collision ever in
space. The impact creates a hissing air leak, which the two
miraculously locate and seal off before losing too much oxygen.
A Proton rocket places the first segment of the international
space station Alpha in orbit, the Russian module Zarya. NASA presses
the Russian agency to deorbit Mir, citing concerns over safety of
the aging station.
The 27th expedition to Mir lands. Moscow does not send up a
The last two persons to live on Mir, Alexander Kaleri and Sergei
Zaletin, return after a two-month trip. The cosmonauts are
financed by MirCorp, a group of private investors bent on keeping
Mir alive as a destination for wealthy tourists. A U.S.
businessman buys a roundtrip ticket for as much as $20 million.
As the first Alpha crew prepares to go into orbit, Russian space
authorities decide to retire Mir in the spring of 2001. Chances
that Mir will become a space hotel all but evaporate.
February 20, 2001
Mir completes 15th year in orbit, far surpassing its planned
lifetime of five years or less. Mir admirers including cosmonauts
and scientists protest in Moscow against its impending doom.
March 2001 ?
Mir's fiery end is tentatively scheduled for the middle of the
month. The exact date depends on solar activity, which can
increase or slow atmospheric drag on the station.
Moscow will command Mir to lower its orbit. Most of the 130-ton
station should burn up over a stretch of the South Pacific
between Australia and Chile. Yet an estimated 30 to 35 tons could
survive reentry and fall into the ocean.
Protesters call to save Mir
February 20, 2001
Mir marks 15 years in orbit
February 19, 2001
Mir Space Station
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