SAF logo
From Mir to Mars
Mir animation History of Mir

Russian scientists began working on a modular-type space station in 1976, and Mir was launched into orbit in 1986. The space station was designed to be used for at least 10 years. In its original design, Mir was 43 feet (13.13 meters) long and 13.6 feet (4.15 meters) in diameter, and weighed 46,189 pounds (20,900 kg).

The idea to include several docking ports for additional modules on the space station was first documented in 1978. But tests on Salyut 6 (an earlier space vessel) showed that adding even one docking port was difficult, because the surface was covered with equipment. It wasn't until 1985 that Soviets announced Mir would not only have multiple docking ports, but would also be expanded by adding four to six modules to the ports. Each additional module could weigh up to 46,000 pounds, and Soviets estimated Mir's final weight would be about 221,000 pounds (100,000 kg).

Many of the controls on Mir are designed to be automated, and only about 13 percent of the operations need to be done manually. There are 900 display units and indicators in Mir and around 350 in each additional module. The Soviets predicted that the number of commands required to manage the Mir complex could grow from 300 to 1,000 once all five modules were added.

The Russian cosmonauts' original schedule called for spending about three to four hours a day on communications, another three to four hours maintaining life support and five hours working on experiments. Since NASA astronauts joined the Mir crew, Americans have done much of the work on experiments, leaving cosmonauts more time to work on station operations.

Mir is first and foremost a place for scientific experimentation. It provides a unique opportunity to conduct long-term examinations of the effects of microgravity -- on plants, on animals and on humans. It also allows scientists to test the efficacy of materials developed on Earth that are designed for use in long-duration space flights. When Mir was launched, the main program for research aboard the space station focused on six areas: space technology, astrophysics, resources, technology, biotechnology, medicine and biology.

Designers divided the station into two main sections: the work or control section and the living section. Forward of the work section was the docking module and airlock. Any of the hatches on the docking adapter could be used for space walks.

Most of the station's volume consisted of the living section. To allow for more living space, almost all of the instruments and experiments were removed from inside Mir, and flight controls were located in the work section of the station. Experiments are housed in separate modules that were launched after Mir.

The living section includes a galley and folding table similar to equipment used on earlier Salyut vessels, with built-in food heaters for the crew. The floor of the living section is made up of several storage compartments for equipment. Walls are covered with elastic straps to secure items, and hand rails run the length of the walls and ceiling.

Each cosmonaut has a separate closet-like compartment off the living section for sleep and privacy. The sleeping compartments each have a folding chair, mirror, port hole and sleeping bag.

There is also a VCR and a library of videotapes in the living compartment for the instruction and entertainment of the crew. Some of the NASA astronauts who lived aboard Mir said they found watching videotapes a good way to unwind after a day's work.

Offsite Links

Find out more about Russian Space sites.

Explore Mir's history.

Keep up with the current news from Mir.