Crash of the Mir

ON MARCH 23, 2001, a Russian space station called the Mir successfully entered the Earth’s atmosphere and crashed in the South Pacific. The space station was the largest spacecraft ever to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, and concerns that sizeable pieces of debris could survive re-entry were rampant. So much so that New Zealand issued an international warning to ships and aircraft travelling in the South Pacific area.

According to reports the Mir, which is Russian for “peace”, was launched in 1986 to show that human life could be sustained continuously in its modules for an anticipated five years. Fifteen years later, with computer failures, space fungus and one fire having plagued Mir at the end of its operational period, the decision was made to bring it down.

The craft would land in Fiji waters. Those living in Nadi then were witness to the historic occasion when the heaviest space station at the time nosedived into the Pacific Ocean.

A CNN correspondent who was in the country then “spotted streaking debris and heard resulting sonic booms soon after Mir began its descent.

The fallout was “making a huge golden trail through the sky. We’re just in awe. It’s a collection of bright golden lights tearing across the sky,” said the correspondent.

“Perhaps five large fragments fell apart into several more fragments in front of my eyes,” he added. “The speed and the size of the object was amazing, like something out of a science fiction movie.” Most of the station, which weighed 286,600 pounds, burned up in the atmosphere, but about 1500 fragments fell to Earth’s surface upon its deorbit. According to reports, the fragments were so large that people in Nadi, were able to see falling bits of the debris and retrieve large chunks of the space station from the Pacific Ocean.

Its destruction marked the end of one of the Soviet Union’s most daring extraterrestial mission.

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