The first-ever manned outpost to orbit the Earth was Salyut 1, launched by the Soviet Union on 19 April 1971. The station was small compared to the modern-day ISS, measuring just 20 metres (65 feet) in length and four metres (13 feet) wide. In its 175 days in space, of which only 24 saw the station manned, Salyut 1 completed 2,929 orbits of Earth and travelled a total distance of over 118 million kilometres (73 million miles) before re-entering and burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere. Only one crew ever successfully docked and visit the station, the three-man crew of Soyuz 11, although they sadly lost their lives on their return to Earth and became the only ever astronauts to lose their lives in space.
Salyut 1 was succeeded by eight more Soviet-built space stations, culminating in the construction of the giant Mir space station that began in 1986, with NASA’s Skylab station sandwiched in-between in 1973. Mir retained the record for the longest orbiting man-made space station until being surpassed by the ISS in 2010.
Image credit: TASS