The Russian space station Mir was first launch into orbit on February 19, 1986. This first module up was the 20.4 ton, 13.3 meter (m) by 4.15 m, Mir core module. The core module provides basic services such as living quarters, life support and solar power as well as scientific research capabilities. It has two axial docking ports, fore and aft, for the Soyuz-TM manned transports and the automated Progress-M supply ships, plus four radial berthing ports for expansion modules.
The first crew members of Mir were two cosmonauts, who arrived March 13, 1986. The Mir core module then had added to it the 11 ton, 5.8 m by 4.15 m, Kvant module on March 31, 1987. The purpose of the Kvant module is to provide data and observations for research into physics of active galaxies, quasers, and neutron stars. This data is gathered with devices which measure electromagnetic spectra and x-ray emissions The Kvant also supports biotechnology experiments in the areas of antiviral preparations and fractions.
The next module that was added to Mir was the 19.6 ton, 12.4 m by 4.35 m Kvant 2 module on November 26, 1989. The purpose of the Kvant 2 module is to provide biological research data, Earth observation data, and EVA capability. It also adds additional system capability to Mir. Kvant 2 includes additional life support systems, drinking water, and oxygen provisions, motion control systems, and power distribution, as well as shower and washing facilities.
The next module that was added to Mir was the 19.6 ton, 11.9 m by 4.35 m Kristall module on May 31, 1990. The purpose of the Kristall module is to develop biological and materials production technologies in the space environment. One component of the Kristall is a radical docking port equipped with a special androgynous docking mechanism designed to receive heavy (up to 100 tons) spacecraft equipped with the same kind of docking unit. Originally designed as a potential means of docking the Russian Buran reusable shuttle orbiter. This androgynous port is now attached to the Docking module which was brought up on The United States Space Shuttle Atlantis. All shuttles use the docking module.
Next attached to Mir was the 19.6 ton, 11.9 m by 4.35 m Spektr module, added on May 20, 1995. The Spektr module is a joint venture with the United States. The purpose of the Spektr module is for Earth observation, specifically natural resources and the atmosphere. It had also served as the living quarters for US astronauts aboard Mir. The US has given the Russian Space Agency nearly a half billion dollars to have the Space Shuttle dock with Mir 9 times. On June 27, 1995 the Atlantis was the first to dock with Mir. Atlantis is scheduled to dock with Mir for the first 7 missions. The last 2 missions the space shuttle Discovery will dock with Mir, with the last occuring on May 29. 1998.
On April 23, 1996, Russia launched the Mir module Priroda (Nature) on a Proton launcher for rendezvous and docking with the space station Mir on April 26. Weighing nearly 20 tons, the unit carries more than a ton of U.S. cargo for astronaut Shannon Lucid aboard the space station. Other Priroda equipment includes optical systems to survey Earth's resources. When docked, the new module completes the Mir construction complex started ten years earlier; four other modules -- Kristall, Kvant, Kvant-2, and Spektr -- have been launched and attached to the core unit before. Unlike them, Priroda has no solar power arrays but must rely on its on-board batteries as long as it is not docked to Mir.
Its primary purpose is to add Earth remote sensing capability to Mir. It also contains the hardware and supplies for several joint U.S.- Russian science experiments. Its Earth remote sensing capabilities include: Monitoring the ecological situation of large industrial areas, estimation of anthropogenous effects on ecological systems, measuring concentration and spacial distribution of small gaseous components in atmosphere of ozone and anthropogenous impurities. Determining temperature fields on the ocean surface and researching the process of energy and mass exchange between ocean and atmosphere affecting the weather. Receiving data on classification, structure, and moisture of clouds, including their optical characteristics. Receiving data for plotting geological structure maps on refinement of minteral reserves, water reserves, erosion of soil and conditions of forests and crops. Acquiring emergency information from buoys in areas of nuclear power stations, seismically dangerous and other zones to create an integrated monitoring and warning system (Kentavr) performing measurements in order to obtain data for working out ecological and economic theory of natural resources utilization.
The Progress-M is the unmanned supply ship used to send food and other supplies to the cosmonauts and astronauts aboard Mir. It is launch atop a Russian Soyuz SL-4 rocket.
How can the crew members aboard the Mir space station escape in the event of an emergency without the Space Shuttle Atlantis being available? (Atlantis is the only shuttle configured for docking with Mir) The answer is Soyuz, a Russian three-man craft that can leave the Mir station quickly and return to Earth within a day. Soyuz consists of three modules, and according to NASA, after Soyuz leaves Mir for Earth, the orbital and the instrument modules separate from the descent module and are destroyed. The descent module shoots through the atmosphere and parachutes to Earth with enough food and gear for the crew members to survive until they are found. Since Soyuz ferries crew members back and forth to Mir from Earth, the Soyuz vehicle is replaced on Mir with a newer version every six months or so, as replacement crews are brought in.
Mir has been home to 73 crew members from more then a dozen countries over the last 11½ years. It has now orbited the Earth more then 65,000 times.
Mir:Living on Borrowed Time. With the Many Problems in 1997 to Prove It.
To find out about the #1 censored story on Earth, NASA's October 6th launching of the Cassini Mission carrying 72.3 lbs. of the most deadly substance known, Plutonium.