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Mir Pushed the Frontier of Space

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This report is clearly focused around a specific thesis. It is evident from the writer’s voice that he is interested in and knowledgeable about the topic.

Mir Pushed the Frontier of Space

Before the International Space Station, the largest structure in space was the Mir space station. The Soviets (and Russians) built Mir in orbit from 1986 to 1996. The station lasted another five years before its orbit decayed and it burned up on re-entry in 2001. As the first modular space station, Mir pushed the frontiers of science, but as a result, living conditions inside weren't glamorous. Mir astronauts were more like the early pioneers who risked their lives but kept going and made their mission a success.

Mir’s struggles began with the space station itself. By 1998, Mir had already made its 69,560th orbit of the earth. That’s 1.83 billion miles! In addition to having high mileage, Mir had a computer system that was ancient. Since Mir blasted off in 1986, astronauts had to fix more than 1,500 problems on the ship. Most were small, but a few were big. In February 1997, a fire shut down an oxygen generator. Then in June 1997, a spaceship carrying supplies to Mir crashed into a solar panel (Chien 97). Many times, the crew sat in the dark because there wasn’t enough power to work the computers or do experiments.

Like the pioneers who headed west in covered wagons, Mir astronauts learned to do the best they could with what they had. For example, Mir astronauts wore their cotton T-shirts, gym shorts, and socks for two weeks! The astronauts wore the clothes day and night and even exercised in them. After two weeks, astronauts just pitched the stinky stuff into space where it burned up in the earth’s atmosphere (Hoversten). Poor conditions required innovative solutions.

Life on Mir could be downright unhealthy. The humid air made mold grow, and the mold spoiled the food. The crew couldn't wash well, and infections spread quickly, especially when new astronauts came on board. After their bodies were weightless for a long time, the bones in their lower hips and spines got weaker (Chien 99). Then, when astronauts went back to Earth, they had more problems. They had poor balance, weak muscles, and severe soreness (Covault 76). The space station was not conducive to health.

The living conditions on Mir would've made even Captain Kirk return to Earth. Fans hummed nonstop. The smell of gasoline hung in the air, and food was served up freeze-dried. The shower often was broken, so the crew had to take sponge baths. Even sleeping was hard. Jerry Linenger spent 132 days on Mir with these problems. He said, “There’s something about it [life on Mir] that makes you feel, ‘Yeah, I’m on the frontier’ ” (Hoversten). Arguably, life on Mir felt like camping in space.

Even though life on Mir wasn’t glamorous and equipment often failed, the Mir astronauts had lots of success. Like the pioneers, the astronauts found many useful things that helped explorers who followed them. But maybe Mir’s greatest success was that astronauts from Russia and the U.S., two old enemies, worked together as friends (Chien 99). Adventure with hardship can bring people together.

Works Cited

Chien, Phillip. “Space Jalopy.” Popular Science May 1998: 96-99. Print.

Covault, Craig. “Mir ‘Lessons’ Preview Future ISS Flights.” Aviation Week and Space Technology 9 Mar. 1998: 76-78. Print.

Hoversten, Paul. “Life on Mir, or, roughing it on the ‘frontier’.” Florida Today: Space Online. 20 Aug. 1997. Web. 10 Sept. 1998.

Wolf, David. Interview. NASA Shuttle-Mir. Nov. 1997. Web. 10 Sept. 1998.

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