Mir Space Station


Mir space station viewed from
the shuttle Endeavour
Credit: NASA

Mir was the very first space station, in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, and was operated by Russia's space program. Mir was assembled in orbit between 1986 and 1996, and had a greater mass than any previous spacecraft. At the time, it was the largest artificial satellite in orbit around the Earth (until it was replaced by the International Space Station).

The space station acted as a research laboratory for low-gravity conditions. Mir's crew studied:

Photograph of Mir in orbit around the Earth
Mir in orbit around the Earth, viewed from
the shuttle Atlantis
Credit: NASA

Mir was the first research station in orbit where astronauts lived long-term. It held the record for the longest time astronauts spent in space (3,644 days), until this record was beaten by the International Space Station in October 2010. Mir still holds the record for the longest single human spaceflight, by Valeri Polyakov between 1994 and 1995. He was on board the space station for 437 days and 18 hours. Three astronauts could live on board Mir, but more astronauts could visit for shorter periods.

There were seven modules which made up the space station. Solar power generated electricity to support the station and its crew. Mir was in orbit around Earth at an altitude of about 350 km, and travelled at an average speed of 27,700 km per hour, completing almost 16 orbits each day.

Mir was taken out of orbit in March 2001, after the mission's funding was stopped. The International Space Station was designed, built, and launched, thanks to the success of Mir.