No more Mir

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We shall miss her. Yes, we laughed at the old girl when the lights went out on board, or when the odd bit fell off. When a new cosmonaut went up, we ran through the old jokes about bad Russian hotels. But now Mir is no more, her otherwise mostly humdrum existence having ended in a spectacular shower of stardust plunging into the southern Pacific ocean - and there is a strange gap in all our lives.

We shall miss her. Yes, we laughed at the old girl when the lights went out on board, or when the odd bit fell off. When a new cosmonaut went up, we ran through the old jokes about bad Russian hotels. But now Mir is no more, her otherwise mostly humdrum existence having ended in a spectacular shower of stardust plunging into the southern Pacific ocean - and there is a strange gap in all our lives.

The Russian people are apparently heartbroken at the loss of what they see as a last vestige of their vanished status as a superpower. But they should feel no shame, only pride at what their space station has achieved. Mir soldiered on for 15 years, three times longer than was originally intended. It was among the most effective vehicles for co-operation between Moscow and Washington. Above all, it taught human beings about living in space.

Before Mir, space exploration consisted of long periods of tedium punctuated by oc-casional calamity. Mir was a patchwork of the minor dramas of everyday life, from dodgy food to leaking pipes and malfunctioning lavatories. In other words, it just muddled along. Like the Russians - and like the rest of us.

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