Tomorrow is 30 years to the day since the Soviet Union launched the Mir space station and, even though it has long burned up over the Earth, its legacy remains intact.
The launch of the first section of the Mir space station on 20 February 1986 could have been seen as a pipe dream for anyone considering it to have any long-term future.
After all, NASA had already trumped the Russians two decades earlier with the first man on the moon, and the Soviet government was on its last legs financially, having spent an obscene amount of money on its military throughout the Cold War.
However, having seen the US launch its first space station attempts in 1973 with Skylab, which lasted only six years in orbit maintaining a single module, the Soviets saw a means of trumping its enemy with its own much larger creation.
Just like the International Space Station (ISS) that currently flies over our heads on a regular basis, Mir (meaning ‘peace’ in Russian) was once humankind’s largest artificial satellite, with it completing just under 16 orbits of the Earth every day.
The ‘largest tinker toy in space’
Over the course of the next 10 years, seven modules that made up the space station were launched, each of which contributed various aspects to scientific endeavours that led to a number of major breakthroughs, which would be developed further aboard the ISS.
It was in 2001, however, that, after years of being described as the ‘largest tinker toy in space’, the lifespan of Mir reached as far as it could and, on 23 March of that year, it burned up in Earth’s atmosphere after the last crew had returned in June 2000.
So, to celebrate the life of one of humankind’s greatest cosmic acheivements, here are 5 photos from the archive that defined the Mir era, or should that be the ‘Mira’?
Most of the following images aren’t particular high resolution, but bear in mind the era we’re talking about here.
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