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Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Mir: Was it worth it?
The fiery remnants of Russia's Mir space station have crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean.
Eyewitnesses were treated to a spectacular display as superheated fragments of the 15-year-old orbital platform streaked across the evening sky. Sonic booms were heard as material passed overhead.
Yet many argue that Mir's contribution to science has been limited. Experiments carried out on board were often poorly executed and in many cases the results inadequately recorded.
Did you see Mir coming down? What did the Mir actually achieve? Was it just a giant floating hardware store? Or was Mir's survival its outstanding success? What is the future for space stations in our exploration of the cosmos?
This debate is now closed. Your reaction:
Prakahs Chandra, India
Mir was a great achievement by mankind. But I feel that it should have been grounded at least two-three years ago, when the problem intensified. But hats off to those engineers, scientists and all the team who created the Mir!
Have we even been able to maintain a continuous habitat under the sea yet for over ten years? To keep MIR running in such a remote place is a technical triumph and a testament to the skills of Russian scientists and engineers and the crews. Between them, they had to do everything (hint: there are no plumbers to call in space).
The Russians should be proud of Mir. The station gave valuable experience for humans in space and the problems and difficulties faced in such ventures. Much of the western press has been almost hysterical about Mir's re-entry prior to the event. I'm delighted but not surprised that the highly professional and competent Russian controllers brought the station down when and where they wanted. It's time to reflect on past triumphs and tribulations but also to look towards the future on the INTERNATIONAL space station, based on the expertise gained on Mir!
I admire Mir! It has been, and will always be, the crown jewel of the Russian space agency. I found the tone of some news reports on this and other western websites irritating. Don't say that it "used to be" one. MIR is down, that is inevitable, but it is still in here in my heart and many others'. Mankind will have to remember it as their first home in space. Look at what happened to Skylab. MIR is different, it survived, served well its duty and retired with dignity.
Mir provided valuable 'in-flight space time'. It showed that humans could place a vehicle into space, maintain it over a long period of time, and most importantly, deal with issues such as space craft collision, fire and air pressure leaks and solve them. It also provided humanity with important information regarding long term exposure to zero gravity. When we finally make it to the planet Mars, the success of that mission will be due in no small part to the experience gained by operating the Mir space station.
Mir was an absolute triumph. Of course it had problems but it stayed up there for 15 years and allowed all sorts of research into weightlessness to be carried out - vital if man is ever to reach Mars. But are we missing the point? The most important reason for taking on any challenge is, in the words of Hilary after he climbed Everest, "because it's there".
Mir led the way for a long-term human presence in space. It was a "first try" (and a successful one!) with all the shortcomings of a first attempt. The ISS shouldn't be called "Alpha" - that was Mir. The ISS should be much better than Mir, as we now have Mir as an example. The ISS will have a challenge to match Mir's success.
Pascal Jacquemain, UK (French)
I always had a soft spot for the USSR, and to see the last great memory of it crashing down into the sea, after belittling its role, paving the way for global McDonalds domination (the only genuine US invention), is a reminder of how pathetic humans really are. RIP MIR, RIP USSR...for the dark days are still to come.
It seems to me that Mir was killed off prematurely as NASA and the United States didn't want the attention being drawn away from their new baby, the ISS. No doubt the ISS will be an amazing achievement too but in true American fashion, Mir's contribution to the development of the ISS and as a human achievement is being played down. If Mir had been an American achievement I'm sure the attitudes would be considerably different. Russia deserves due recognition for this amazing achievement.
Damn... every topic here ends up being an opportunity to bash America. Hey, Mir was a fine piece of work. It just got old and fell apart. Everything does eventually. We weren't jealous of it. Bravo USSR !!
Calling Mir 'space junk' can only be the result of jealousy. The best reference regarding the Mir space station can be obtained from interviews with two British astronauts who lived there. They both loved it and considered it to be the most exciting thing an astronaut can experience. They felt very saddened when they had to leave. It is going to take many years and even more wasted money before NASA or the European Space Agency produce something similar.
As a New Zealander, I am once again extremely angry that the Northern Hemisphere pollutes the Southern Hemisphere with God knows what! If you send these things up then bring them down in your own area. The Southern Hemisphere is the only place left where nature is nature. Yet you in the north, having destroyed your own environment are now intent on destroying the south - forty years of nuclear testing; forty years of whale hunting; dropping your space-debris... Keep it to yourselves. No one in the south wants it.
The history of Mir is especially remarkable because it symbolises Russian resourcefulness. The American space program, with its comparatively enormous financial resources, can often solve problems by throwing money at them. The Russians have had to be clever, and with their cleverness extended Mir's life for years beyond what was thought possible. That extra life allowed other nations to use Mir's capabilities as well, and in that alone Mir amply lived up to its name, which means "peace".
CONGRATULATIONS, RUSSIA! Everybody has been trying to do them down yet Mir was a fantastic success and was up much longer than it was meant to be. People damn the research done when most of them haven't come within a thousand miles of a Mir research document. Well done, Russia! Ignore the western media that doesn't want to give you any credit for your outstanding and remarkable achievement.
I was one of the team that helped with the design of Mir and I think the world can celebrate such a great success as Mir was. I did have a tear in my eyes in its final moments but its time to move on.
Mir is the last achievement that makes the world look at Russia as a superpower, and I guess that the secrets of this space station have been lost forever because what are saved of technological secrets are not enough to repeat such a giant leap, since it is difficult for Russia today to gather together groups of scientists or finance an expensive project as Mir again.
During the '80s and early '90s Mir was hardly mentioned in the press. If America had done the same thing we'd have heard a hundred times more about it, as it was a great achievement.
Mir has given valuable experience for the ISS. The spirit of the ISS is about international cooperation in science, and Russia has ditched Mir in order to contribute more to this effort. Shame on the people, especially journalists, who still bring cold war attitudes into our new science efforts - we're now working together as a species.
Wayne Nelson, California, USA
MIR was an outstanding achievement. A huge amount of knowledge was gained which can be put to good use in the International Space Station.
Mir will be remembered as Earth's real FIRST space station. Russian ingenuity and American money will be the future of space exploration.
Long may they co-operate.
Mir's contribution to science isn't so much technological as a success when it comes to communication. We have had the technology to go to Mars for about 30 years. Why has it taken so long? We will need all the practice we can get if we're going to make it.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK
Mir was a marvel of technology and how anyone can criticise it as space junk is beyond me. For a fraction of the cost of the ISS, over a decade ago, the Russians managed to get a space-station in orbit; that alone is an incredible feat. Yes, lots did go wrong with it, particularly towards the end, but considering it lasted for so much longer than its originally intended lifespan that comes as no great surprise.
I am sick to death of people making fun of the Mir space station! The thing was up there for 15 years! I'm sorry for all of those jealous Americans who can't stand being beaten in space. It seems funny that such an achievement is played down, but every single problem it's had has been pointed out. I'm sorry it is gone, it was one hell of an achievement!
Jeff Scholey, UK
What ever happened to the Skylab? It crashed after a couple of years into Australia. Mir has been a milestone in human history.
Mir may be criticised, but it has done something remarkable for mankind; it has proved without a doubt that people can live beyond this planet. Mir may not have been as scientific as it could have been, but it was the fulfilment of a dream and the creation of new dreams. In my mind that counts above all else.
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