Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

April 2, 1996

Atlantis Approaches Mir
Credit: NASA, STS-76 Crew

Explanation: Imagine flying though space and approaching the Mir space station. The crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis did just this in a mission that ended only two days ago. Mir, now 10 years old, is equipped for scientific experiments in astronomy, physics, materials, biology and chemistry. The top most module on Mir is an unmanned supply ship used to send food and supplies. The next module with the long boom carries telescopes and essential flight equipment and connects to the core module with living quarters and solar panels. To the left is the Spektr module carrying solar arrays and scientific equipment while on the right is a scientific module that also carries an airlock. The docking module seen at the bottom is the ultimate destination of Atlantis. The STS-76 mission left astronaut Shannon Lucid for a planned five month stay. Four more shuttle flights are currently planned to Mir, keeping a NASA astronaut continuously in space until late 1997. In late 1997, building on this jointly developed understanding and experience, the US and Russia will launch the first modules of the International Space Station.

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
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