The final piece in the Mir puzzle was Priroda, launched in April 1996. Priroda
means "Nature," and this is known as the environmental module. Its mission is
to study the atmosphere and oceans, with an emphasis on pollution and other
environmental impact of human activities on them. To this end, it contains
active, passive, and infra-red radiometers, a synthetic aperture radar, and
several types of spectrometers used for measuring ozone and aerosol
concentrations in the atmosphere. At the same time, it monitors the propagation
of industrial pollutants, maps thermal variations across oceans, measures the
height of ocean waves, measures mean temperatures and the vertical structure of
clouds, and measures wind direction and speed. It is also designed to conduct
geological surveys that can be used to locate mineral resources and water
reserves and study the effects of erosion on crops and forests.
Priroda is also the site of the Microgravity Isolation Mount, set up inside a
compartment called the Glovebox, for procedures requiring physical isolation.
Mir vibrates slightly as it orbits the Earth; the crew can't feel it, but it's
enough to disrupt certain sensitive experiments. So the Canadian Space Agency
designed the MIM, the top half of which floats free, held in place solely by
electromagnetic fields. The Glovebox also has TV cameras and lighting
apparatus, for recording the progress of the experiments.
Priroda is also where the American astronauts do their work, and where they
sleep, bungee-corded to the wall.