Asked by Fiona Cooper
The Mir space station was successfully de-orbited in its entirety in 2001. No pieces were left in orbit and the decision to bring it down while still operational was to make sure that it wouldn’t fall at a later time in an uncontrolled manner.
The reason for the concern was built on the fact that Mir was the largest spacecraft to be destroyed through controlled re-entry. There were a few worries that some of the larger pieces may survive the trip, potentially causing damage. To reduce this, Mir’s entry path was plotted so that it would carry the station over the Pacific Ocean and away from areas with a human population. The de-orbit went as planned with the debris falling into the ocean. However, this did not stop some sneaky and intrepid salvage hunters from collecting a few sizeable pieces of the wreckage.
Answered by Sophie Allan from the National Space Centre
Got a question for us? Send it into firstname.lastname@example.org and you could see it featured in All About Space – available every month for just £3.99. Alternatively you can subscribe here for a fraction of the price!