On March 23, 2001, the Russian space station "Mir" ceased to exist. After floating in space for 15 years, Russian mission control fired engines on a rocket that had docked with Mir. It made its planned trajectory and after colliding with the earth’s atmosphere its fragments splashed down safely in the South Pacific Ocean, between New Zealand and Chile.
"Mir" (the Russian word for both "Peace" and "World") was a Russian space programme and its core module was launched in 1986. It’s lifetime in space was estimated to be five years. But, over the years, the space station continuously expanded thus extending its lifespan. Cosmonauts and astronauts from countries including France, Germany, the United States, India and Japan visited, lived and conducted experiments on the orbiter. It was continuously occupied until 1999 and orbited the earth more then 85,600 times. Records were also set. It raised the first crop of wheat to be grown from seed to seed in outer space and, in 1995, cosmonaut Valery Polyakov spent 439 days in space aboard the station, beating the previous endurance record of 326 days.
The decision to destroy the space station was made because funding became scarce and because of its old age, which resulted in fires and constant breakages. There was controversy and worries for the safety of bringing such a large man-made space object out of orbit; and protests were held by cosmonauts and scientists who believed that Mir was a national treasure, and still had life left in her. But rallies and petitions could not keep Mir in space. And on this day eight years ago it re-entered the atmosphere. The collapse was visible on the beaches of the Fiji Islands. Spectators got to see the station’s final moments across the sky. Some described the 135-tonne station as "peacefu" and "graceful" as it was broke up.