Scientific research has always been one of the most important objectives for both the Russian and American space programs. The Mir complex allowed research in fundamental physics, chemistry, human physiology, animal and plant biology, and technology development, as well as investigations directed toward better understanding processes on Earth. A carefully planned program of studies designed to use the known capabilities of Mir was an integral part of the evolutionary process of understanding the effects of long-duration microgravity on biological and physical processes. Scientists had a better opportunity to understand the space environment, study and learn to cope with the effects that it has on spacecrafts and their human inhabitants, and to increase their scientific knowledge, and technology to be implemented on the International Space Station and on Earth.
The commercial initiated research and technology from the advanced technology discipline evaluated new technologies and techniques using the Mir space station as a test bed. An increased understanding of the characteristics of superconductors, protein crystal growth, and the development of biological and chemical systems through fluid processing in reduced gravity can lead to an enhanced technological base for implementation on the International Space Station and commercial processing here on Earth.
Fundamental biology research continued developmental investigations that studied the effects of the space environment on the biological systems of plants. Prolonged exposure to microgravity provides an ideal opportunity to determine the role gravity has on cell regulation and how this affects development and growth. Investigations under this discipline also characterized the internal radiation environment of the Mir space station.
Human life sciences research consisted of investigations that focused on the crewmember's adaptation to weightlessness in terms of skeletal muscle and bone changes, psychological interactions, immune system function, and metabolism. In addition, environmental factors such as water quality, air quality, surface assessment for microbes, and crew microbiology were assessed. These ambitious investigations will continue the characterization of the integrated human responses to a prolonged presence in space.
The International Space Station risk mitigation discipline consisted of several technology demonstrations associated with human factors and maintenance of crew health and safety aboard the space station. To improve the design and operation of the International Space Station, information was gathered to fully evaluate the Mir interior and exterior environments. This discipline included investigations of radio interference, crew force impacts to structures, particle impact on the station, docked configuration stability, water microbiological monitoring and inventory management.
Space science research collected interstellar and interplanetary space particles to further our understanding of the origin and evolution of planetary systems and life on Earth.
Microgravity research was designed to advance scientific understanding through research in biotechnology, fluid physics, combustion science, and materials science. The ambient acceleration and vibration environment of Mir was characterized to support future research programs.
Earth sciences research in ocean biochemistry, land surface hydrology, meteorology, and atmospheric physics and chemistry was also performed. Observation and documentation of transient natural and human-induced changes was accomplished with the use of passive microwave radiometers, a visible region spectrometer, a side-looking radar, and hand-held photography. Earth orbit allowed for documentation of atmospheric conditions, ecological and unpredictable events, and seasonal changes over long time periods.
Nearly all NASA-Mir investigations are joint efforts between the U.S. and Russia, with at least one researcher involved from each country. Sharing of data and results, and the cooperation involved, made the NASA-Mir program a wonderful precedent for future international efforts in space.