An Eyewitness Account of Mir’s Demise

By SpaceRef Editor
March 25, 2001
Filed under

Enterprise Indelible Images of a Dying Spaceship

Editor’s note: Early Friday morning I listened to the verbal descriptions from CNN’s correspondent on a beach in Fiji as he watched, in obvious awe, while Mir sped overhead in its final death throes. An image began to form in my mind. Hours later, when I saw his video, the mental image was replaced with a real one – and reminded me of something I had experienced (and felt) before. Later in the day it dawned on me. It was Star Trek III and the destruction of the Enterprise I was thinking of. A venerable ship that had served well beyond its expectations – meeting its end while its former crew looked on.- Keith Cowing


Your summary of the Mir Reentry expedition is generally accurate.
However, we had two planes, and both planes did see something. The
biggest plane (which I was on) was farther away, and had the the
worst view. (The information we had was that the last burn would
have a delta-v of 20 meters/second. It was actually 30
meters/second. It was very hard to predict how long the Progress
engines would burn. The difference in the delta-v altered the best
viewing site by about 2000 kilometers.)

During the last hour on the plane, leading up to the end, I was
taking notes on what was happening, including my thoughts, feelings
and impressions of the entire event. In summary, it was a
combination of nervousness and excitement when the day started, to be
replaced be a deep sadness in the final two hours before the
re-entry. I felt like I was watching the death of a dream (for space
entrepreneurs), and the destruction of the home in which you were
born and raised (for our Russian friends who were with us.) The
plane was a stark contrast between the sadness and mourning, of the
Russians and a half dozen Americans, and the excitement of the other
Mir Reentry Expedition participants, composed of the other Americans,
a few Canadians, and one person from Singapore.

The Bottom Line on Viewing — While the people on Fiji had a better
view (Hugh Williams of CNN took the pictures from the beach of the
hotel we were staying at … kind of ironic), and while Hugh got
great pictures because he was there to interview us (even more
ironic), we were the last humans to see Mir in its death throes.
Plus, we were with the Russians (I was really struck by the picture
you posted making the allusion to Star Trek III.) I will only say
that is was an intensely private moment for our Russian friends.

An even better story — the second smaller plane was between the
bigger plane and Fiji. It was mostly staffed by teenagers with
digital video recorders. We all expected this plane would have the
worst view. However, three teenagers (one son each of Bob and Rick
Citron, and the son of the renowned action photographer BobTur)
actually turned out to be the heroes of the expedition. They
recorded evidence of explosions, plus parts breaking off. Felt like
Rocket Boys 2. I think there is at least a Disney movie of the week

FYI, Mirreentry.Com will be posting more and better video footage of
these last images of Mir’s death very soon. (If they have not
already posted them already. I was told on Friday afternoon, that
over 1 million streams of the first part of the video was downloaded
in a 10 hour period. The best parts still needed to be uploaded as
of Saturday afternoon.)

In conclusion, it is my goal, and the goal of my company,
Constellation Services International (CSI), that this be last time in
human history that such a valuable asset in LEO will be destroyed.
The destruction of Mir space station was a huge travesty and a
monumental waste that should never be allowed to happen again.

Onwards and upwards,

– Charles

Charles E. Miller

Chief Executive Officer

Constellation Services International, Inc.

SpaceRef staff editor.