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MIR space station A close-up view of a damaged radiator panel on Mir's Spektr module
A close-up view of a damaged radiator panel on Mir's Spektr module
This was the year when disaster almost struck - several times. In January, a fire broke out on board, forcing the crew to don lifemasks. They came within seconds of abandoning the space station. Even their Soyuz spacecraft lifeboat was filled with smoke. After a nerve-racking few minutes, the fire was extinguished.

During a test in June, a Progress cargo ship veered off course and crashed into the station. A solar panel was damaged and the Spektr module was punctured and Mirís atmosphere started leaking into space.

The crew - including the British-born Michael Foale - isolated Spektr by cutting cables and closing the module's hatch before the pressure dropped to a critical level.

Back on Earth, there were calls for the ageing Mir to be abandoned. Over the next few weeks and months, there followed a series of serious glitches and computer failures. In July, Mir lost power after a crew member accidentally disconnected a vital computer cable sending the station into a free drift. In August, two oxygen generators broke down and the crew was forced to use special oxygen canisters.

The US space shuttle docked with Mir three times this year, in January, May and September.

October 1997: Michael Foale returns to Earth after 134 days on Mir Real 56K 
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