Remembering Mir


On June 29, 1995, the space shuttle Atlantis first docked with the Soviet-then-Russian space station Mir. Though this was the third Shuttle-Mir mission, it was the first docking.

Hoot Gibson served as commander, with four crew who flew up and back with him. In addition, two cosmonauts took the trip up, and three other spacefarers returned to Earth to end their longer-term stay aboard Mir. That exchange marked the first on-orbit changeout of shuttle crew, an occurrence that would become common in following years with the International Space Station.

The word mir is often translated as peace or world, but a NASA paper by a Shuttle-Mir program director suggests that it refers to the traditional village in Russian society and the sense of communal, interdependent living: “So the Mir was a gathering of people with common goals and values in a place where they had a better chance of surviving, living a productive life, and succeeding as a group.”

Most stays on Mir lasted for about six months, but Valeri Polyakov was aboard for 437 days, still the record for a space adventure. Scott Kelly’s American record of consecutive days in space aboard ISS in 2015-2016 pales at 340 days.

With ISS already inhabited, Mir was allowed to fall toward Earth, break up, and burn on March 23, 2001.

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