Mir space station, 1997.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model. The Mir space station was launched in stages between 1986 and 1996. When completed it had a total mas of over 110 tonnes making it the largest space station orbited to date. In January 1995 cosmonaut Valeri Poliakov established a new endurance record of 437 consecutive days in orbit. When the former Soviet Union realised that it could not win the race to the Moon, it decided to develop a permanently manned space station. Experiments with the Soyuz programme began in 1970 and the series of Salyut space stations were launched between 1971 and 1982, providing the Soviets with the experience and technical expertise to construct Mir. In March 2001, Mir was brought back to Earth, crashing in a remote area of the South Pacific.