The final phase

Discovery's departure in June 1998 marked the end for a chapter in US-Russian space co-operation. The first segments of the ISS would soon be in orbit, and NASA was keen for the RSA to dedicate its limited resources to the new project rather than sustaining the crumbling Mir. The RSA duly announced that the station would be deliberately taken out of orbit the following year.

Nevertheless, the end of Shuttle visits saw a temporary return to business as usual on Mir, as Talget Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin resumed work. In the following months crew rotations continued, and Mir welcomed a variety of guests, including Yuri Baturin, a distinguished space physicist and former adviser to President Yeltsin, who opined that Mir should be funded for another two years. Delays to the ISS brought more calls to extend Mir's life, but without money there was little the RSA could do.

Meanwhile RSC Energia (the company that now actually owned Mir) sought private funding to continue operation. One important element of this was the ongoing guest cosmonaut programme,

BIOGRAPHY

BIOGRAPHY

which culminated in a six-month tour for France's Jean-Pierre Haigner£ from February 1999. In January, Yuri Semenov (see panel, above) announced a potential investor, but by the end of February, that hope had evaporated. Viktor Afanasayev and Sergei Avdeyev closed down much of the station before departing with Haigner£ on 28 August 1999. The RSA now planned to bring Mir down early in 2000, while they could still guide it to a safe crash site - but there was one more twist to come.

In January 2000, Energia announced ^

investment from MirCorp, a company that would run the station for research and tourism. To NASA's annoyance, the RSA supported the venture, launching a ferry to boost Mir's orbit in February, and a ten-week Soyuz mission in early April to carry out repair and servicing work.

Throughout 2000, MirCorp announced various schemes - plans to launch an actor into space, a gameshow contest for a flight aboard Mir, and even the first space tourist, one Dennis Tito (see p.308). But launch dates continued to slip, and Energia eventually accepted LAST Mi the inevitable, terminating the deal in On 23 Mi

December. Mir's impressive career finally Progress-

Mir fired ended with a spectacular demise over the ^ statii Pacific in March 2001. it into th>

LAST MOMENTS OVER FIJI

On 23 March 2001, the Progress-Mi ferry attached to Mir fired its engines to lower the station's orbit and plunge it into the Earth's atmosphere.

MIR SHOWS ITS AGE

Looking somewhat battered by a series of Occidents and the general wear and tear of 12 years in space, Mir was photographed by Discovery in June 1998 during the final Shuttle-Mir mission.

COLLISION IN SPACE

On 25 June 1997, a Progress-M ferry being used for a remote piloting test crashed into a solar panel on Mir's Spektr module, creating a substantial leak. To save the station, Mir's occupants had to seal Spektr off, cutting internal cables that carried power from the module's solar panels. This left the station short of power, and it had to be steered for some time using the engines on the attached Soyuz spacecraft. Locating the leak near the panel's motor took some time, and it took several months and a number of spacewalks to get Mir fully operational once again.

JERRY LINENGER

NASA astronaut Linenger was the fourth American aboard Mir. As the station's physician, he had special duties in the emergency - watching in case anyone fell ill and keeping a particular eye on Korzun as he fought the fire.

AFTER THE FIRE

Jerry Linenger would continue his mission olongside Tsibliev and Lazutkin (above, left and right of Linenger) until May, when Atlantis arrived to collect him and deliver Michael Foole.

EXPERIENCE

EMERGENCY IN ORBIT

Fire on Mir

By the mid-1990s, Mir was approaching a decade of continuous operation and had started showing its age. In addition, a series of accidents and mishaps threw the station's future into doubt. Of these, the most dangerous was the fire of February 1997.

" The smoke was immediate, it was dense I could see the five fingers on my hand, I could see a shadowy figure of the person in front of me who I was trying to monitor to make sure he was doing okay ... Where he was standing he could not see his hands in front of his face in the distant modules ... the smoke was still dense, so it was very surprising how fast and rapid the smoke spread throughout the complex ... I did not inhale anything, and I don't think anyone else did because the thickness of the smoke told you that you could not breathe. So, everyone immediately went to the oxygen ventilators. They worked very [well], and they protected us from inhalation injury."

JERRY LINENGER

NASA astronaut Linenger was the fourth American aboard Mir. As the station's physician, he had special duties in the emergency - watching in case anyone fell ill and keeping a particular eye on Korzun as he fought the fire.

The fire broke out during one of Mir's crowded handover periods - Soyuz TM-25 had arrived 12 days earlier, bringing Vasily Tsibliev, Aleksandr Lazutkin, and German visitor Reinhold Ewald. The American Jerry Linenger had been aboard for several weeks, while Valeri Korzun and Alexander Kaleri were near the end of their mission. The six residents were supplementing the station's air supply with solid-fuel oxygen generators (SFOGs) that produced oxygen through a slow chemical reaction. After dinner on 24 February, Lazutkin went to activate another SFOG cylinder in the Kvant module when it erupted in a shower of sparks - a "baby volcano" as Lazutkin described it. Ewald spotted the fire and alerted the rest of the crew, with Korzun clambering through the hatch to pull Lazutkin from the flames. A wet towel had little effect and Korzun called for fire extinguishers - but the first one he tried failed to work. As the smoke grew worse, and the crew put on oxygen masks, the fire alarm alerted Linenger, who had retired early to bed:

AFTER THE FIRE

Jerry Linenger would continue his mission olongside Tsibliev and Lazutkin (above, left and right of Linenger) until May, when Atlantis arrived to collect him and deliver Michael Foole.

SITTING IT OUT

With the fire out, the crew hod to wear their oxygen masks for several hours while Mir's air filters did their work and the smoke cleared. With so many oxygen masks used, they had to preserve those remaining if all six crew were to remain on the station.

SITTING IT OUT

With the fire out, the crew hod to wear their oxygen masks for several hours while Mir's air filters did their work and the smoke cleared. With so many oxygen masks used, they had to preserve those remaining if all six crew were to remain on the station.

Korzun told Lazutkin to prepare one of the two Soyuz spacecraft for evacuation. But there was a problem - the other Soyuz lay on the other side of the fire. As Linenger arrived, the Russian commander ordered the crew to work in pairs, in case one was overcome by smoke. Ewald fetched more oxygen masks (some did not seem to be working), while Tsibliev and Linenger collected fire extinguishers from around the station, before returning to the base block. Eventually, the fire was out - but smoke lingered in the station for some time. Oxygen masks were also running short, and it was some hours before the risk of an evacuation was over.

"When I saw the ship was full of smoke, my natural earthly reaction was to want to open a window. And then, I was truly afraid for the first time."

Aleksandr Lazutkin, interviewed by Nova TV, 1998

INFERNO IN SPACE

Linenger had arrived on the Shuttle Atlantis in mid-January and begun a programme of biomedical science. The fire broke out in the crowded Kvant-1 module and, though brief, coated surfaces throughout the station in a thick layer of grime. Thankfully, aside from the destroyed SFOG canister, there was no serious damage.

I grabbed the respirator off the wall, activated it, took a breath, and I didn't get any oxygen At that point, there was a lot of smoke. I took the mask off. Again, Earth instinct made me look low to try to find a clear spot where I could get a quick breath because I was getting very short of breath at that time. But it was solid smoke. Smoke does not rise in Space like it does on the ground. It's just everywhere. I went to the other respirator on the other wall. Opened it up. At that point, Vasily was there. He saw I was getting into trouble. He helped me get the thing out. I activated it again. Put it on. Breathed in, and luckily got oxygen at that point."

Jerry Linenger, interviewed by Nova TV, 1998

EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAMME

During Linenger's 132-day stay on Mir, he concentrated on life sciences and biotechnology, using his scientific background. He is shown here in Mir's Priroda module.

EXPERIMENTAL PROGRAMME

During Linenger's 132-day stay on Mir, he concentrated on life sciences and biotechnology, using his scientific background. He is shown here in Mir's Priroda module.

The loss of Columbia

The tragic loss of a second Space Shuttle in 2003 led to another hiatus in the launch programme, delaying the effort to build the International Space Station and ultimately changing the entire course of the US space effort.

ILL-STARRED MISSION

Columbia soars skyward on 16 January 2003, its underside already damaged by the fatal impact that would doom its return to Earth 16 days later.

While the Space Shuttle Challenger had been lost at the start of her flight, Columbia was minutes from home when disaster struck on 1 February 2003. The first signs that something was seriously wrong came with an apparently faulty indication that one of the tyres on the Shuttle's left wing had been deflated. Within seconds, however, temperature sensors both on and within the wing began to rise. The last communication from the Shuttle gave no indication that the crew knew they had a major problem, but at 8:59am EST, telemetry data was abruptly lost. Then reports started to come in of fireballs seen in the sky over Texas, and smoking debris falling to the ground. It was soon clear that Columbia had broken up during re-entry.

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