It's been a rocky ride for Mir. Originally estimated to cost $8 billion, recent projections say the Russian space station will cost $94 billion over its lifetime, according to The Glasgow Herald. The series of mishaps on board has taken valuable research time away from the crew. Some lowlights of their mission:
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JULY: LEAKS AND LOSS OF POWER Radiotraffic revealed a mysterious leak of air. The leak seemed to be very small because the loss of pressure was not more than 4 mm in 24 hrs. For a long time the cosmonauts tried to find the location of the leak and to be sure they closed all hatches between the base block and the modules. The suspicion eventually fell on the Module Kvant-2 (Module D). Also one night, the SEP (Electrical Power Supply system) in the Module Priroda failed. Lights, ventilators, experiments and the radio amateur equipment in that module failed. Only the computer used by Haignere was still functioning.
FEBRUARY: SOLAR REFLECTOR EXPERIMENT FAILED
An experiment to try out Znamya 2.5, a solar reflector, failed. Just when Padalka transmitted the command to unfold the reflector packages, the Progress-M40 got a command from earth to deploy a Kurs antenna. One slip of the reflector got stuck behind this antenna and the unfolding process stopped. After the retraction of the antenna and a motorburn of the Progress-M40, the reflector came free, but a second attempt to deploy the reflector failed.
JANUARY: SAVING POWER
Once in a while, the crew had to economize the power consumption because the accumulator batteries were malfunctioning. They had to switch off the BKV-3 (a.c.) and once, when they were about to use the Titus oven, they had to switch off the Elektron oxygen generator in Module-D.
1 9 9 8NOVEMBER: AIR CONDITIONER GLITCH
The air conditioner, BKV-3, has to be regularly switched off some minutes or even within a minute after switching on.
SEPTEMBER: MINOR REPAIRS
Apart from minor repairs and maintenance work, no significant failures were reported.
AUGUST: LIFE SYSTEMS AND SATELLITE PROBLEMS
There was a sharp decrease in power supply which made it necessary to switch off all superfluous systems for a while; only two lamps were burning. There were also airseal problems. Musabayev had to check a rubber bearing of a hatch with his fingers. To secure a good atmosphere on board the crew used oxygen from a tank in the Progress-M39. The antenna of the geostationary satellite, Altair-2, is not functioning.
JULY: MALFUNCTION OF GYRODYNES
There was problem with one of the gyrodynes and one of the solarpanels of the Spektr module does not produce enough energy due to the malfunction of the driver which has to change the angle of that panel.
JUNE: LEAKS AND STEERING PROBLEMS
Green fluorescent gas was pumped into Mir's damaged laboratory module in an unsuccessful effort to locate leaks caused by last year's collision. Days earlier, there were problems in some of the peripheral units, including a rate sensor — a crucial device that records the station's movement.
MAY: COMPUTER FAILURE
Mir's main onboard computer, which controls the station's orbital alignment, failed, leaving Mir adrift but in no immediate danger. The computer was later restarted.
APRIL: SPACEWALK DELAYS
A jammed airlock hatch kept cosmonauts Talgat Musabayev and Nikolai Budarin from executing a spacewalk to work on solar panels. Later, a steering thruster ran out of fuel, forcing cosmonauts to cut short their spacewalk to brace a damaged solar array on Mir's Specktr module. Communication during the spacewalk was hindered by satellite problems that forced the use of transmitters on Earth.
MARCH: DOCKING AND AIR-CONDITIONING PROBLEMS
The crew was forced to switch to manual control moments before the docking of a Progress supply ship. The docking was supposed to have been automatic. CNN also reported that temperatures in parts of the space station had risen to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Despite the installation of a new air conditioner, the temperature remained an uncomfortable 82 degrees for crew members. Flight Commander Talgut Musabayev told Russian mission control the crew was being overworked and making mistakes due to lack of rest.
JANUARY: POWER AND SPACESUIT FAILURE
Mir lost power when a fault in its main computer caused the vessel's solar panels to stop tracking the sun, a Russian space official said. Also, after arriving on Mir, NASA astronaut Andy Thomas had trouble getting into the custom-made Russian spacesuit to be used to escape Mir in case of emergency. With a few adjustments, the spacesuit was made to fit.
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A new, powerful inspection camera had to be abandoned because of a malfunction.
OCTOBER: UNDOCKING FAILURE
The Progress M-35 supply ship failed to undock from Mir as scheduled. The crew later cast off the garbage-laden ship after unhooking a mooring clamp, left locked by accident.
SEPTEMBER: MAIN COMPUTER SHUTDOWN
The main computer system shut down three times. The five shutdowns in recent Mir history forced authorities to question the safety of the craft. In all cases the shutdowns forced the crew to cut all but life support functions, but officials repeatedly stated that the two Russians and one American on board were in no immediate danger. The loss of power caused the space station to spin uncontrollably in orbit, its orientation system lost in the computer breakdown. The cosmonauts had to reduce power and in some instances switch off systems and modules, including the oxygen-generating Elektron system and gyrodines.
AUGUST: OXYGEN SYSTEM BREAKDOWN
On Aug. 5, the space station's oxygen generators broke down, a problem that had occurred repeatedly over the previous week. On Monday, Aug. 18, a computer failure during a docking procedure between Mir and the Progress cargo ship prompted the station to automatically switch off all but vital life-support systems. The failure also disrupted the orientation of the solar panels, reducing power dramatically. The following Monday, Aug. 25, Mir temporarily lost use of both primary and backup oxygen generators. Computer problems continued to impede positioning of the solar panels, limiting power aboard the space station.
Mir lost nearly all its remaining power July 17 when the crew accidentally disconnected a cable that delivered electricity to the mechanism that points the ship's solar panels toward the sun. Power was restored about 24 hours later.
JULY: AILING COSMONAUT
Mir's 43-year-old commander, Vasily Tsibliyev, complained of heart irregularities, prompting mission controllers to declare him unfit for the spacewalk repair mission to restore power lost in the June collision.
A Russian supply ship crashed into the station on June 25 during a docking test, causing one of Mir's six modules to lose pressure. The crew successfully sealed the damaged Spektr module off from the rest of the station. About half the station's power was lost in the aftermath of the collision.
APRIL: COOLING SYSTEM LEAKS
The temperature control system began leaking harmful coolant in early April, briefly raising temperatures in parts of the station to above 86 degrees. The leaks caused Mir's primary air-purification system — which removes carbon dioxide from the air — to fail, forcing the crew to temporarily rely on a backup. The leaks were eventually found and fixed.
MARCH: OXYGEN SYSTEM BREAKDOWN
Both oxygen generators failed during the first week of March, forcing the crew to rely on canisters similar to the one that exploded in February. The crew repaired one unit and a backup was brought to Mir aboard a U.S. space shuttle in July.
An oxygen canister caught fire and exploded Feb. 23, filling the station with vapor and smoke. Russian officials said the crew put out the fire using a wet towel and a fire extinguisher. Downplayed at the time as a minor problem, the blaze was considered the worst spacecraft fire since the Apollo 1 inferno in 1967, according to the American astronaut aboard at the time.
— AP contributed to this report.