Russian and Australian officials said the controlled crash went perfectly, as Mir’s 15-year journey came to an end.
Most of the 135-ton space station disintegrated as it fell through the atmosphere. Russian officials said the remaining chunks of Mir — some weighing over 1,500 pounds — plunged into the Pacific about 1,800 miles east of Wellington, New Zealand, in a 120 by 3,600 mile target zone between New Zealand and Chile.
“The event is over and no one is crying,” said Yuri Koptev, head of the Russian Aerospace agency. “It has been an exemplary operation, and our experts have not made a mistake in any single step, not in a millimeter.”
“Russia will remain a great space power,” he said.
Witnesses in Fiji likened Mir’s re-entry to a fireworks display. They reported seeing white balls of fire and hearing four sonic booms. The burning debris lit up the early evening sky for several seconds.
The successful splashdown was a relief to several nations who worried the troubled station’s final descent could go awry.
“We feel very relieved, and it’s thanks to Russia’s planning and technology,” said a government spokesman in Japan, over which the falling station passed in its final hours.
Since its launch by the Soviet Union in 1986, Mir has circled the Earth 86,331 times. In its final years, Mir and its crew survived several mishaps, including a near-fatal collision with a cargo ship. The station’s age and funding cuts led to the decision to bring Mir down, and the end of one of Russia’s greatest space achievements has symbolized to some Russia’s fading technological prowess.
The Russians are currently participating in the International Space Station project with the U.S. and more than a dozen other nations.