Russian Space Station Mir braved the chaos of space for over a decade until its demise. After its launch in 1986, the mission hosted 11 shuttle flights and seven astronaut residencies until its demise over a decade later. Here are some of the things you should know about the NASA-Mir program:
1. Mir’s unusual look was so hard to pin down, it was called everything from a hedgehog and a dragonfly to a 100-ton Tinker Toy and school buses in a bad pile-up.
2. The space station survived 15 years in space — three times its predicted lifespan.
3. It was also the heaviest thing orbiting our planet other than the moon itself until the International Space Station launched as its successor.
4. “Mir” means “peace,” “world,” and “village” in Russian.
But a solitary word doesn’t do its meaning justice: “Mir” was a term used for a local commune that shared limited resources on the land that it owned. “Life in the Mir was simple, warm, supportive, and full of strong traditions and community values,” writes NASA’s Frank L. Culbertson, Jr. in a paper submitted to the Association of Space Explorers. “On the other hand, exclusion or expulsion from the Mir was almost certain failure or death.” These communities were replaced by state-owned collective farms after the Russian revolution in 1917.
5. The first-ever crop of wheat was grown and harvested in space aboard Mir in 1990.
The seeds sprouted in a tiny Bulgarian-built greenhouse named SVET, which measured just one square foot. The plants grew in a material similar to kitty litter that was filled with nutrients rather than cat poop.
6. The station had many historic firsts.
Sergei Krikalev was the first cosmonaut to fly on a space shuttle, and Norman Thagard was the first American aboard Mir, his residency lasting over three months.
7. But it was Russian Sergei Avdeyev who spent a whopping 748 days on board during the course of three separate trips, which subjected his body to immense strains as it orbited Earth 11,968 times.
By the end, he was too weak to even sit up in a chair. His recovery took about a year.
8. Mir gained a reputation as being a bit accident-prone.
In the late ‘90s, there was a fire aboard the station, and that same year, the observatory impinged on a supply vehicle, among other incidents that sent it out of control.
9. Before Mir was deorbited, people were actually worried it would smash into a populated area, so much so that Russia took out insurance, just to be safe.
The world watched the station with a wary eye until the spent Mir finally burned up over the southern Pacific Ocean in 2001.