Mir ... the forerunner to the ISS
The ISS is by no means the world's first orbital space station.
That honour goes to the USSR's Salyut 1, which was launched in 1971 and which was followed by the Almaz station.
It was the USSR manned space station Mir (meaning "peace") in 1986, however, that ushered in a new era of human ingenuity, setting unbeaten records for human space flight in the process. The almost 138 000kg station, then the heaviest object orbiting our planet other than the moon, circled the Earth for 15 years before being decommissioned and guided down to a fiery death over the Pacific Ocean in March 2001.
Invaded by bugs
During its record-breaking orbit Mir survived a fire, collisions with spacecraft and even attacks by metal- and glass-eating microbes.
In 1961, it was feared that space flight might prove fatal to Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space, so his journey was limited to 108 minutes and a single orbit of the Earth. By the time of Mir, things had changed considerably: cosmonaut Valery Polyakev completed a 438-day continuous tour of duty aboard Mir, a record that still stands, while another Russian, Sergei Avdeyev, spent a record 747 days in space on three separate missions.
'Honey, we have guests!'
Completed in 1996, Mir cost US$4.2-billion to construct and maintain, and during its lifetime it hosted a total of 104 cosmonauts, astronauts and visitors on 46 flights.
It yielded a myriad scientific breakthroughs and was a major milestone on our journey to the stars; Mir may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.