9 May 2001

In Ghana, 129 football fans die in what became known as the Accra Sports Stadium disaster. The deaths are caused by a stampede (caused by the firing of tear gas by police personnel at the stadium) that followed a controversial decision by the referee.

11 June 2001

Timothy McVeigh is executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Timothy McVeigh
McVeigh mugshot.jpg
FBI mugshot of McVeigh in 1995
Timothy James McVeigh

(1968-04-23)April 23, 1968
Lockport, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 11, 2001(2001-06-11) (aged 33)
Cause of deathExecution by lethal injection
Other namesTim Tuttle[1]
Daryl Bridges[2]
Robert Kling
OccupationSecurity guard
MotiveAnti-government sentiment
Retaliation for the Ruby Ridge, Waco siege, other government raids, U.S. foreign policy and civilian casualties from U.S. military attacks in foreign countries[3]
Conviction(s)Use of a weapon of mass destruction
Conspiracy use of a weapon of mass destruction
Destructive use of explosives or incendiary devices
8 federal counts of first-degree murder of 8 federal law enforcement officers
160 state counts of first-degree murder of the others.
Criminal penaltyDeath by lethal injection
Partner(s)Terry Nichols
Michael Fortier
DateApril 19, 1995
9:02 a.m. (CDT)
Location(s)Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Target(s)U.S. federal government
WeaponAmmonium nitrate and nitromethane truck bomb
Glock 21 (not used)

Timothy James McVeigh (April 23, 1968 – June 11, 2001) was an American domestic terrorist who carried out the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children, and injured more than 680 others, and destroyed one third of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.[5][6] The bombing was the deadliest act of terrorism in the United States prior to the September 11 attacks. It remains one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

A Gulf War veteran, McVeigh sought revenge against the federal government for the 1993 Waco siege that ended in the deaths of 86 people, many of whom were children, as well as the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident and American foreign policy. He hoped to inspire a revolution against the federal government, and defended the bombing as a legitimate tactic against what he saw as a tyrannical government.[7] He was arrested shortly after the bombing and indicted on 160 state offenses and 11 federal offenses, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction. He was found guilty on all counts in 1997 and sentenced to death.[8]

McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute, Indiana. His execution was carried out in a considerably shorter time than most inmates awaiting the death penalty.[citation needed]

Early life

McVeigh was born on April 23, 1968, in Lockport, New York, the only son and the second of three children of Irish Americans Mildred "Mickey" Noreen (née Hill) and William McVeigh. In 1866, McVeigh's great-great-grandfather Edward McVeigh emigrated from Ireland and settled in Niagara County.[9][1] After their parents divorced when McVeigh was ten years old, he was raised by his father in Pendleton, New York.[1][10]

McVeigh claimed to have been a target of bullying at school, and he took refuge in a fantasy world where he imagined retaliating against the bullies.[11] At the end of his life, he stated his belief that the United States government is the ultimate bully.[12]

Most who knew McVeigh remember him as being very shy and withdrawn, while a few described him as an outgoing and playful child who withdrew as an adolescent. He is said to have had only one girlfriend as an adolescent; he later told journalists that he did not have any idea how to impress girls.[13]

While in high school McVeigh became interested in computers, and hacked into government computer systems on his Commodore 64 under the handle The Wanderer, taken from the song by Dion (DiMucci). In his senior year he was named "most promising computer programmer" of Starpoint Central High School,[14] but had relatively poor grades until his 1986 graduation.[1]

He was introduced to firearms by his grandfather. McVeigh told people of his wish to become a gun shop owner, and sometimes took firearms to school to impress his classmates. He became intensely interested in gun rights as well as the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution after he graduated from high school, and read magazines such as Soldier of Fortune. He briefly attended Bryant & Stratton College before dropping out.[15][16] After dropping out of college, McVeigh worked as an armored car guard and was noted by co-workers as being obsessed with guns. One co-worker recalled an instance when McVeigh came to work "looking like Pancho Villa" as he was wearing bandoliers.[1]

Military life

In May 1988, at the age of 20, McVeigh enlisted in the United States Army and attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia.[17] While in the military, McVeigh used much of his spare time to read about firearms, sniper tactics, and explosives.[18] McVeigh was reprimanded by the military for purchasing a "White Power" T-shirt at a Ku Klux Klan protest where they were objecting to black servicemen who wore "Black Power" T-shirts around a military installation (primarily Army).[19]

McVeigh was a top-scoring gunner with the 25mm cannon of the Bradley Fighting Vehicles used by the 1st Infantry Division and was promoted to sergeant. After being promoted, McVeigh earned a reputation of assigning undesirable work to black servicemen and using racial slurs.[1] He was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, before being deployed on Operation Desert Storm.

In an interview before his execution, McVeigh said that he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and celebrated.[20][page needed] He said he was later shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road while leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army. McVeigh received several service awards, including the Bronze Star Medal,[1] National Defense Service Medal,[21] Southwest Asia Service Medal,[22] Army Service Ribbon,[22] and the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal.[21]

McVeigh aspired to join the United States Army Special Forces (SF). After returning from the Gulf War, he entered the selection program, but washed out[clarification needed] on the second day of the 21-day assessment and selection course for the Special Forces. McVeigh decided to leave the Army and was honorably discharged in 1991.[23]

Post-military life

McVeigh wrote letters to local newspapers complaining about taxes:

Taxes are a joke. Regardless of what a political candidate "promises," they will increase. More taxes are always the answer to government mismanagement. They mess up. We suffer. Taxes are reaching cataclysmic levels, with no slowdown in sight. [...] Is a Civil War Imminent? Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that. But it might.[24]

McVeigh also wrote to Representative John J. LaFalce (D–New York),[25] complaining about the arrest of a woman for carrying mace:

It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can't even carry Mace in her purse?[25]

While visiting friends in Decker, Michigan, McVeigh reportedly complained that the Army had implanted a microchip into his buttocks so that the government could keep track of him.[1] McVeigh worked long hours in a dead-end job and felt that he did not have a home. He sought romance, but his advances were rejected by a co-worker and he felt nervous around women. He believed that he brought too much pain to his loved ones.[26] He grew angry and frustrated at his difficulties in finding a girlfriend. He took up obsessive gambling.[27] Unable to pay gambling debts, he took a cash advance and then defaulted on his repayments. He began looking for a state[clarification needed] so that he could live without heavy government regulation or high taxes. He became enraged when the government told him that he had been overpaid $1,058 while in the Army and he had to pay back the money. He wrote an angry letter to the government, saying:

Go ahead, take everything I own; take my dignity. Feel good as you grow fat and rich at my expense; sucking my tax dollars and property.[28]

McVeigh introduced his sister to anti-government literature, but his father had little interest in these views. He moved out of his father's house and into an apartment that had no telephone. This made it impossible for his employer to contact him for overtime assignments. He quit the National Rifle Association (NRA), believing that it was too weak on gun rights.[29]

1993 Waco siege and gun shows

In 1993, McVeigh drove to Waco, Texas, during the Waco siege to show his support. At the scene, he distributed pro-gun rights literature and bumper stickers bearing slogans such as, "When guns are outlawed, I will become an outlaw." He told a student reporter:

The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.[30][31]

For the five months following the Waco siege, McVeigh worked at gun shows and handed out free cards printed with Lon Horiuchi's name and address, "in the hope that somebody in the Patriot movement would assassinate the sharpshooter." Horiuchi is an FBI sniper and some of his official actions have drawn controversy, specifically his shooting and killing of Randy Weaver's wife while she held an infant child. McVeigh wrote hate mail to Horiuchi, suggesting that "what goes around, comes around". McVeigh later considered putting aside his plan to target the Murrah Building to target Horiuchi or a member of his family instead.[32]

McVeigh became a fixture on the gun show circuit, traveling to forty states and visiting about eighty gun shows. He found that the further west he went, the more anti-government sentiment he encountered, at least until he got to what he called "The People's Socialist Republic of California."[33] McVeigh sold survival items and copies of The Turner Diaries. One author said:

In the gun show culture, McVeigh found a home. Though he remained skeptical of some of the most extreme ideas being bandied around, he liked talking to people there about the United Nations, the federal government, and possible threats to American liberty.[34]

Arizona with Fortier

McVeigh had a road atlas with hand-drawn designations of the most likely places for nuclear attacks and considered buying property in Seligman, Arizona, which he determined to be in a "nuclear-free zone." He lived with Michael Fortier in Kingman, Arizona, and the two became so close that he served as best man at Fortier's wedding. McVeigh experimented with cannabis and methamphetamine after first researching their effects in an encyclopedia.[35] He was never as interested in drugs as Fortier was, and one of the reasons they parted ways was that McVeigh grew tired of Fortier's drug habits.[36]

With Nichols, Waco siege, and radicalization

In April 1993, McVeigh headed for a farm in Michigan where former roommate Terry Nichols lived. In between watching coverage of the Waco siege on TV, Nichols and his brother began teaching McVeigh how to make explosives by combining household chemicals in plastic jugs. The destruction of the Waco compound enraged McVeigh and convinced him that it was time to take action. He was particularly angered by the government's use of CS gas on women and children; he had been exposed to the gas as part of his military training and was familiar with its effects. The disappearance of certain evidence,[37] such as the bullet-riddled steel-reinforced front door to the complex, led him to suspect a cover-up.

McVeigh's anti-government rhetoric became more radical. He began to sell Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) hats riddled with bullet holes, and a flare gun that he said could shoot down an "ATF helicopter".[8][38] He produced videos detailing the government's actions at Waco and handed out pamphlets with titles such as "U.S. Government Initiates Open Warfare Against American People" and "Waco Shootout Evokes Memory of Warsaw '43." He began changing his answering machine greeting every couple of weeks to various quotes by Patrick Henry, such as "Give me liberty or give me death."[39] He began experimenting with making pipe bombs and other small explosive devices. The government imposed new firearms restrictions in 1994 which McVeigh believed threatened his livelihood.[36]

McVeigh dissociated himself from his boyhood friend Steve Hodge by sending him a 23-page farewell letter. He proclaimed his devotion to the United States Declaration of Independence, explaining in detail what each sentence meant to him. McVeigh declared that:

Those who betray or subvert the Constitution are guilty of sedition and/or treason, are domestic enemies and should and will be punished accordingly.

It also stands to reason that anyone who sympathizes with the enemy or gives aid or comfort to said enemy is likewise guilty. I have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and I will. And I will because not only did I swear to, but I believe in what it stands for in every bit of my heart, soul and being.

I know in my heart that I am right in my struggle, Steve. I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause. Blood will flow in the streets, Steve. Good vs. Evil. Free Men vs. Socialist Wannabe Slaves. Pray it is not your blood, my friend.[40]

McVeigh felt the need to personally reconnoiter sites of rumored conspiracies. He visited Area 51 in order to defy government restrictions on photography and went to Gulfport, Mississippi, to determine the veracity of rumors about United Nations operations. These turned out to be false; the Russian vehicles on the site were being configured for use in U.N.-sponsored humanitarian aid efforts. Around this time, McVeigh and Nichols began making bulk purchases of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, for resale to survivalists, since rumors were circulating that the government was preparing to ban it.[41]

Plan against federal building or individuals

McVeigh told Fortier of his plans to blow up a federal building, but Fortier declined to participate. Fortier also told his wife about the plans.[42] McVeigh composed two letters to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the first titled "Constitutional Defenders" and the second "ATF Read." He denounced government officials as "fascist tyrants" and "storm troopers," and warned:

ATF, all you tyrannical mother fuckers will swing in the wind one day for your treasonous actions against the Constitution of the United States. Remember the Nuremberg War Trials.[43][2]

McVeigh also wrote a letter to recruit a customer named Steve Colbern:

A man with nothing left to lose is a very dangerous man and his energy/anger can be focused toward a common/righteous goal. What I'm asking you to do, then, is sit back and be honest with yourself. Do you have kids/wife? Would you back out at the last minute to care for the family? Are you interested in keeping your firearms for their current/future monetary value, or would you drag that '06 through rock, swamp and cactus... to get off the needed shot? In short, I'm not looking for talkers, I'm looking for fighters... And if you are a fed, think twice. Think twice about the Constitution you are supposedly enforcing (isn't "enforcing freedom" an oxymoron?) and think twice about catching us with our guard down – you will lose just like Degan did – and your family will lose.[44]

McVeigh began announcing that he had progressed from the "propaganda" phase to the "action" phase. He wrote to his Michigan friend Gwenda Strider, "I have certain other 'militant' talents that are in short supply and greatly demanded."[45]

McVeigh later said he considered "a campaign of individual assassination," with "eligible" targets including Attorney General Janet Reno, Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. of Federal District Court, who handled the Branch Davidian trial; and Lon Horiuchi, a member of the FBI hostage-rescue team, who shot and killed Vicki Weaver in a standoff at a remote cabin at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992.[46] He said he wanted Reno to accept "full responsibility in deed, not just words."[47] Such an assassination seemed too difficult,[48] and he decided that since federal agents had become soldiers, he should strike at them at their command centers.[49] According to McVeigh's authorized biography, he decided that he could make the loudest statement by bombing a federal building. After the bombing, he was ambivalent about his act and the deaths he caused; as he said in letters to his hometown newspaper, he sometimes wished that he had carried out a series of assassinations against police and government officials instead.[50]

Oklahoma City bombing

Working at a lakeside campground near McVeigh's old Army post, he and Nichols constructed an ANFO explosive device mounted in the back of a rented Ryder truck. The bomb consisted of about 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane.

On April 19, 1995, McVeigh drove the truck to the front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building just as its offices opened for the day. Before arriving, he stopped to light a two-minute fuse. At 09:02, a large explosion destroyed the north half of the building. It killed 168 people, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, and injured 684 others.[51]

McVeigh said that he had not known that there was a daycare center on the second floor, and that he might have chosen a different target if he had known about it.[52][53] Nichols said that he and McVeigh did know about the daycare center in the building, and that they did not care.[54][55]

McVeigh's biographers, Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck, spoke with McVeigh in interviews totaling 75 hours. He said about the victims:

To these people in Oklahoma who have lost a loved one, I'm sorry but it happens every day. You're not the first mother to lose a kid, or the first grandparent to lose a grandson or a granddaughter. It happens every day, somewhere in the world. I'm not going to go into that courtroom, curl into a fetal ball and cry just because the victims want me to do that.

During an interview in 2000 with Ed Bradley for television news magazine 60 Minutes, Bradley asked McVeigh for his reaction to the deaths of the nineteen children. McVeigh said:

I thought it was terrible that there were children in the building.[56]

According to the Oklahoma City Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), more than 300 buildings in the city were damaged. More than 12,000 volunteers and rescue workers took part in the rescue, recovery and support operations following the bombing. In reference to theories that McVeigh had assistance from others, he responded with a well-known line from the film A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth!" He added, "Because the truth is, I blew up the Murrah Building and isn't it kind of scary that one man could wreak this kind of hell?"[57]

Arrest and trial

FBI forensic sketch compared to mugshot of McVeigh

By tracing the vehicle identification number of a rear axle found in the wreckage, the FBI identified the vehicle as a Ryder rental box truck rented from Junction City, Kansas. Workers at the agency assisted an FBI artist in creating a sketch of the renter, who had used the alias "Robert Kling". The sketch was shown in the area. Lea McGown, manager of the local Dreamland Motel, identified the sketch as Timothy McVeigh.[58][59]

Shortly after the bombing, while driving on Interstate 35 in Noble County, near Perry, Oklahoma, McVeigh was stopped by State Trooper Charles J. Hanger.[60] Hanger had passed McVeigh's yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis and noticed that it had no license plate. McVeigh admitted to the state trooper—who noticed a bulge under his jacket—that he had a gun; the trooper arrested him for driving without plates and possessing an illegal firearm. McVeigh's concealed weapon permit was not legal in Oklahoma. McVeigh was wearing a shirt at that time with a picture of Abraham Lincoln and the motto sic semper tyrannis ('Thus always to tyrants'), the supposed words shouted by John Wilkes Booth after he shot Lincoln.[61] On the back, it had a tree with a picture of three blood droplets and the Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."[62] Three days later, McVeigh was identified as the subject of the nationwide manhunt.

McVeigh about to be led out of a Perry, Oklahoma, courthouse two days after the bombing

On August 10, 1995, McVeigh was indicted on 11 federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction with the use of explosives, and eight counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of law enforcement officers.[63] Psychiatrists concluded he had major depressive, narcissistic personality, and schizotypal personality disorders.[64] On February 20, 1996, the Court granted a change of venue and ordered that the case be transferred from Oklahoma City to the District Court in Denver, to be presided over by District Judge Richard Paul Matsch.[65]

McVeigh instructed his lawyers to use a necessity defense, but they ended up not doing so.[66] They would have had to prove that McVeigh was in "imminent danger" from the government. McVeigh argued that "imminent" did not necessarily mean "immediate." They would have argued that his bombing of the Murrah building was a justifiable response to what McVeigh believed were the crimes of the U.S. government at Waco, Texas, where the 51-day siege of the Branch Davidian complex resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians.[67] As part of the defense, McVeigh's lawyers showed the jury the controversial video Waco, the Big Lie.[68]

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on all 11 counts of the federal indictment.[69] Although 168 people, including 19 children, were killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing, murder charges were brought against McVeigh for only the eight federal agents who were on duty when the bomb destroyed much of the Murrah Building. Along with the eight counts of murder, McVeigh was charged with conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, and destroying a federal building. Oklahoma City District Attorney Bob Macy said he would file state charges in the other 160 murders after McVeigh's co-defendant, Terry Nichols, was tried. After the verdict, McVeigh tried to calm his mother by saying, "Think of it this way. When I was in the Army, you didn't see me for years. Think of me that way now, like I'm away in the Army again, on an assignment for the military."[70]

On June 13, the jury recommended that McVeigh receive the death penalty.[71] The U.S. Department of Justice brought federal charges against McVeigh for causing the deaths of eight federal officers leading to a possible death penalty for McVeigh; they could not bring charges against McVeigh for the remaining 160 deaths in federal court because those deaths fell under the jurisdiction of the State of Oklahoma. Because McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death, the State of Oklahoma did not file murder charges against McVeigh for the other 160 deaths.[72] Before the sentence was formally pronounced by Judge Matsch, McVeigh addressed the court for the first time and said: "If the Court please, I wish to use the words of Justice [Louis] Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead [v. United States] to speak for me. He wrote, 'Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.' That's all I have."[73]

Incarceration and execution

McVeigh was held at USP Florence ADMAX in Colorado until 1999

McVeigh's death sentence was delayed pending an appeal. One of his appeals for certiorari, taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, was denied on March 8, 1999. McVeigh's request for a nationally televised execution was also denied. An Internet company unsuccessfully sued for the right to broadcast the execution.[74][75] At USP Florence ADMAX, McVeigh and Nichols were housed in what was known as "bomber's row". Ted Kaczynski, Luis Felipe, and Ramzi Yousef were also housed in this cell block. Yousef made frequent, unsuccessful attempts to convert McVeigh to Islam.[76]

McVeigh said: "I am sorry these people had to lose their lives, but that's the nature of the beast. It's understood going in what the human toll will be."[77] He said that if there turned out to be an afterlife, he would "improvise, adapt and overcome",[77] noting: "If there is a hell, then I'll be in good company with a lot of fighter pilots who also had to bomb innocents to win the war."[78] He also said: "I knew I wanted this before it happened. I knew my objective was state-assisted suicide and when it happens, it's in your face. You just did something you're trying to say should be illegal for medical personnel."[75]

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) transferred McVeigh from USP Florence ADMAX to the federal death row at USP Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana, in 1999.[79] McVeigh dropped his remaining appeals, saying that he would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison.[80] On January 16, 2001, the BOP set May 16 as McVeigh's execution date.[81] McVeigh said that his only regret was not completely destroying the federal building.[82] Six days prior to his scheduled execution, the FBI turned over thousands of documents of evidence it had previously withheld to McVeigh's attorneys. As a result, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced McVeigh's execution would be stayed for one month.[80] The execution date was reset for June 11. McVeigh invited conductor David Woodard to perform Requiem Mass music on the eve of his execution. While acknowledging McVeigh's "horrible deed", Woodard consented, intending to "provide comfort".[83][84] McVeigh also requested a Catholic chaplain. His last meal consisted of two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.[85]

McVeigh was held on federal death row at USP Terre Haute in Indiana after 1999

McVeigh chose William Ernest Henley's poem "Invictus" as his final statement.[86][87] Just before the execution, when he was asked if he had a final statement, he declined. Jay Sawyer, a relative of one of the victims, wrote, "Without saying a word, he got the final word."[88] Larry Whicher, whose brother died in the attack, described McVeigh as having "a totally expressionless, blank stare. He had a look of defiance and that if he could, he'd do it all over again."[89] McVeigh was executed by lethal injection at 7:14 a.m. on June 11, 2001, the first federal prisoner to be executed since Victor Feguer was executed in Iowa on March 15, 1963.[90]

On November 21, 1997, President Bill Clinton had signed S. 923, special legislation introduced by Senator Arlen Specter to bar McVeigh and other veterans convicted of capital crimes from being buried in any military cemetery.[91][92][93] His body was cremated at Mattox Ryan Funeral Home in Terre Haute. His ashes were given to his lawyer, who "said that the final destination of McVeigh's remains would remain privileged forever."[7] McVeigh had written that he considered having them dropped at the site of the memorial where the building once stood, but decided that would be "too vengeful, too raw, too cold."[7] He had expressed willingness to donate organs, but was prohibited from doing so by prison regulations.[50] Psychiatrist John Smith concluded that McVeigh was "a decent person who had allowed rage to build up inside him to the point that he had lashed out in one terrible, violent act."[13] McVeigh's IQ was assessed at 126.[94]


According to CNN, his only known associations were as a registered Republican while in Buffalo, New York, in the 1980s, and a membership in the National Rifle Association while in the Army, and there is no evidence that he ever belonged to any extremist groups.[95]

Religious beliefs

McVeigh was raised Roman Catholic.[96] During his childhood, he and his father attended Mass regularly.[97] McVeigh was confirmed at the Good Shepherd Church in Pendleton, New York, in 1985.[98] In a 1996 interview, McVeigh professed belief in "a God", although he said he had "sort of lost touch with" Catholicism and "I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs."[96] In McVeigh's biography American Terrorist, released in 2002, he stated that he did not believe in a hell and that science is his religion.[99][100] In June 2001, a day before the execution, McVeigh wrote a letter to the Buffalo News identifying himself as agnostic. However, he took the Last Rites, administered by a priest, just before his execution.[101][102][103][104][105][106] Father Charles Smith ministered to McVeigh in his last moments on death row.[107]

Motivations for the bombing

McVeigh claimed that the bombing was revenge against the government for the sieges at Waco and Ruby Ridge.[108] McVeigh visited Waco during the standoff. While there, he was interviewed by student reporter Michelle Rauch, a senior journalism major at Southern Methodist University who was writing for the school paper. McVeigh expressed his objections over what was happening there.[95][109]

McVeigh frequently quoted and alluded to the white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries; he claimed to appreciate its interest in firearms. Photocopies of pages sixty-one and sixty-two of The Turner Diaries were found in an envelope inside McVeigh's car. These pages depicted a fictitious mortar attack upon the U.S. Capitol in Washington.[110]

In a 1,200-word essay[3] dated March 1998, from the federal maximum-security prison at Florence, Colorado, McVeigh claimed that the terrorist bombing was "morally equivalent" to U.S. military actions against Iraq and other foreign countries. The handwritten essay, submitted to and published by the alternative national news magazine Media Bypass, was distributed worldwide by the Associated Press on May 29, 1998. This was written in the midst of the 1998 Iraq disarmament crisis and a few months before Operation Desert Fox.

On April 26, 2001, McVeigh wrote a letter to Fox News, "I Explain Herein Why I Bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City", which explicitly laid out his reasons for the attack.[111] McVeigh read the novel Unintended Consequences (1996), and said that if it had come out a few years earlier, he would have given serious consideration to using sniper attacks in a war of attrition against the government instead of bombing a federal building.[112]


McVeigh's accomplice Terry Nichols was convicted and sentenced in federal court to life in prison for his role in the crime.[113] At Nichols' trial, evidence was presented indicating that others may have been involved.[114] Several residents of central Kansas, including real estate agent Georgia Rucker and a retired Army NCO, testified at Terry Nichols' federal trial that they had seen two trucks at Geary Lake State Park, where prosecutors alleged the bomb was assembled. The retired NCO said he visited the lake on April 18, 1995, but left after a group of surly men looked at him aggressively. The operator of the Dreamland Motel testified that two Ryder trucks had been parked outside her Grandview Plaza motel where McVeigh stayed in Room 26 the weekend before the bombing.[115] Terry Nichols is incarcerated at ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado.[116]

Michael and Lori Fortier were also considered accomplices, due to their foreknowledge of the bombing. In addition to Michael assisting McVeigh in scouting the federal building, Lori had helped McVeigh laminate a fake driver's license which was used to rent the Ryder truck.[117] Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife.[118] He was sentenced on May 27, 1998, to twelve years in prison and fined $75,000 for failing to warn authorities about the bombing.[119] On January 20, 2006, Fortier was released for good behavior into the Witness Protection Program and given a new identity.[120]

An ATF informant, Carol Howe, told reporters that shortly before the bombing she had warned her handlers that guests of Elohim City, Oklahoma,[clarification needed] were planning a major bombing attack.[121] McVeigh was issued a speeding ticket there at the same time.[122] Other than this speeding ticket, there is no evidence of a connection between McVeigh and members of the Midwest Bank Robbers at Elohim City.[123]

Some witnesses claimed to have seen a second suspect, and there was a search for a "John Doe #2", but none was ever found.[124]

In popular culture

In the 2012 alternate universe novel The Mirage, McVeigh is a CIA officer of the Evangelical Republic of Texas. Terry Nichols is mentioned as an associate.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Russakoff, Dale; Kovaleski, Serge F. (July 2, 1995). "An Ordinary Boy's Extraordinary Rage". The Washington Post. p. A01. Archived from the original on 2011-01-31. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  2. ^ a b Ottley, Ted. "Imitating Turner". Timothy McVeigh & Terry Nichols: Oklahoma Bombing. TruTv. Archived from the original on January 19, 2012. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
  3. ^ a b McVeigh, Timothy J. (June 1998). "An Essay on Hypocrisy". Media Bypass Magazine. Archived from the original on 1999-04-29. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
  4. ^ "Resilience: Five forgotten facts about the Oklahoma City bombing". NewsOK.com.
  5. ^ Shariat, Sheryll; Mallonee, Sue; Stephens-Stidham, Shelli (December 1998). "Oklahoma City Bombing Injuries" (PDF). Injury Prevention Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-05-18. Retrieved 2014-08-09.
  6. ^ "McVeigh biographers share 'chilling' audiotapes: Authors Michel and Herbeck reflect on McVeigh, OKC anniversary". NBC News. April 15, 2010. Retrieved April 22, 2010.
  7. ^ a b c "Timothy McVeigh dead". CNN. Archived from the original on 2016-01-01. Retrieved July 30, 2015.
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    • Count 3: "destruction by explosives resulting in death", in violation of 18 USC § 844(f)(2)(a) & (b).
    • Counts 4–11: first-degree murder in violation of 18 USC § 1111, 1114, & 2 and 28 CFR § 64.2(h), each count in connection to one of the eight law enforcement officers who were killed during the attack.
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Further reading

  • Jones, Stephen and Peter Israel. Others Unknown: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing Conspiracy, 2nd ed. New York: PublicAffairs, 2001. ISBN 1-58648-098-7.
  • Madeira, Jody Lyneé. Killing McVeigh: The Death Penalty and the Myth of Closure. NYU Press, 2012. ISBN 0-81-479610-9 ISBN 978-0-814-79610-8
  • Michel, Lou and Dan Herbeck. American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing. New York: ReganBooks (HarperCollins), 2001. ISBN 0-06-039407-2.
  • Brandon M. Stickney, "All-American Monster: The Unauthorized Biography of Timothy McVeigh". Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1996. ISBN 978-1-57392-088-9.
  • Vidal, Gore. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got to Be So Hated, Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002. ISBN 1-56025-405-X.
  • Wright, Stuart A. Patriots, Politics, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-521-87264-5

External links

23 March 2001

The Russian Mir space station is disposed of, breaking up in the atmosphere before falling into the southern Pacific Ocean near Fiji.

Mir Space Station viewed from Endeavour during STS-89.jpg
Mir seen from Space Shuttle Endeavour during STS-89 (9 February 1998)
Mir insignia.svg
Mir insignia
Station statistics
COSPAR ID1986-017A
SATCAT no.16609Edit this on Wikidata
Call signMir
Launch20 February 1986 – 23 April 1996
Launch padLC-200/39, and LC-81/23, Baikonur Cosmodrome
Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A
Kennedy Space Center
Reentry23 March 2001
05:59 UTC
Mass129,700 kg
(285,940 lb)
Length19 m (62.3 ft)
from core module to Kvant-1
Width31 m (101.7 ft)
from Priroda to docking module
Height27.5 m (90.2 ft)
from Kvant-2 to Spektr
Pressurised volume350 m³
Atmospheric pressurec.101.3 kPa (29.91 inHg, 1 atm)
Periapsis altitude354 km (189 nmi) AMSL
Apoapsis altitude374 km (216 nmi) AMSL
Orbital inclination51.6 degrees
Orbital speed7.7 km/s
(27,700 km/h, 17,200 mph)
Orbital period91.9 minutes
Orbits per day15.7
Days in orbit5,510 (15 years and 31 days)
Days occupied4,592
No. of orbits86,331
Statistics as of 23 March 2001
(unless noted otherwise)
References: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][unreliable source?][11][unreliable source?][12]
The main components of Mir shown as a line diagram, with each module highlighted in a different colour
Station elements as of May 1996

Mir (Russian: Мир, IPA: [ˈmʲir]; lit.'peace' or 'world') was a space station that operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001, operated by the Soviet Union and later by Russia. Mir was the first modular space station and was assembled in orbit from 1986 to 1996. It had a greater mass than any previous spacecraft. At the time it was the largest artificial satellite in orbit, succeeded by the International Space Station (ISS) after Mir's orbit decayed. The station served as a microgravity research laboratory in which crews conducted experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and spacecraft systems with a goal of developing technologies required for permanent occupation of space.

Mir was the first continuously inhabited long-term research station in orbit and held the record for the longest continuous human presence in space at 3,644 days, until it was surpassed by the ISS on 23 October 2010.[13] It holds the record for the longest single human spaceflight, with Valeri Polyakov spending 437 days and 18 hours on the station between 1994 and 1995. Mir was occupied for a total of twelve and a half years out of its fifteen-year lifespan, having the capacity to support a resident crew of three, or larger crews for short visits.

Following the success of the Salyut programme, Mir represented the next stage in the Soviet Union's space station programme. The first module of the station, known as the core module or base block, was launched in 1986 and followed by six further modules. Proton rockets were used to launch all of its components except for the docking module, which was installed by US Space Shuttle mission STS-74 in 1995. When complete, the station consisted of seven pressurised modules and several unpressurised components. Power was provided by several photovoltaic arrays attached directly to the modules. The station was maintained at an orbit between 296 km (184 mi) and 421 km (262 mi) altitude and travelled at an average speed of 27,700 km/h (17,200 mph), completing 15.7 orbits per day.[6][page needed][7][page needed][8]

The station was launched as part of the Soviet Union's crewed spaceflight programme effort to maintain a long-term research outpost in space, and following the collapse of the USSR, was operated by the new Russian Federal Space Agency (RKA). As a result, most of the station's occupants were Soviet; through international collaborations such as the Intercosmos, Euromir and Shuttle–Mir programmes, the station was made accessible to space travellers from several Asian, European and North American nations. Mir was deorbited in March 2001 after funding was cut off. The cost of the Mir programme was estimated by former RKA General Director Yuri Koptev in 2001 as $4.2 billion over its lifetime (including development, assembly and orbital operation).[14]


Mir was authorised by a 17 February 1976 decree, to design an improved model of the Salyut DOS-17K space stations. Four Salyut space stations had been launched since 1971, with three more being launched during Mir's development. It was planned that the station's core module (DOS-7 and the backup DOS-8) would be equipped with a total of four docking ports; two at either end of the station as with the Salyut stations, and an additional two ports on either side of a docking sphere at the front of the station to enable further modules to expand the station's capabilities. By August 1978, this had evolved to the final configuration of one aft port and five ports in a spherical compartment at the forward end of the station.[15][failed verification][unreliable source?]

It was originally planned that the ports would connect to 7.5-tonne (8.3-short-ton) modules derived from the Soyuz spacecraft. These modules would have used a Soyuz propulsion module, as in Soyuz and Progress, and the descent and orbital modules would have been replaced with a long laboratory module.[15] Following a February 1979 governmental resolution, the programme was consolidated with Vladimir Chelomei's crewed Almaz military space station programme. The docking ports were reinforced to accommodate 20-tonne (22-short-ton) space station modules based on the TKS spacecraft. NPO Energia was responsible for the overall space station, with work subcontracted to , due to ongoing work on the Energia rocket and Salyut 7, Soyuz-T, and Progress spacecraft. KB Salyut began work in 1979, and drawings were released in 1982 and 1983. New systems incorporated into the station included the Salyut 5B digital flight control computer and gyrodyne flywheels (taken from Almaz), Kurs automatic rendezvous system, Luch satellite communications system, Elektron oxygen generators, and Vozdukh carbon dioxide scrubbers.[15][failed verification][unreliable source?]

By early 1984, work on Mir had halted while all resources were being put into the Buran programme in order to prepare the Buran spacecraft for flight testing. Funding resumed in early 1984 when Valentin Glushko was ordered by the Central Committee's Secretary for Space and Defence to orbit Mir by early 1986, in time for the 27th Communist Party Congress.[15][failed verification][unreliable source?]

It was clear that the planned processing flow could not be followed and still meet the 1986 launch date. It was decided on Cosmonaut's Day (12 April) 1985 to ship the flight model of the base block to the Baikonur Cosmodrome and conduct the systems testing and integration there. The module arrived at the launch site on 6 May, with 1100 of 2500 cables requiring rework based on the results of tests to the ground test model at Khrunichev. In October, the base block was rolled outside its cleanroom to carry out communications tests. The first launch attempt on 16 February 1986 was scrubbed when the spacecraft communications failed, but the second launch attempt, on 19 February 1986 at 21:28:23 UTC, was successful, meeting the political deadline.[15][failed verification][unreliable source?]

Station structure


A diagram showing the Konus drogue and module movements around Mir's docking node[16]

The orbital assembly of Mir began on 19 February 1986 with the launch of the Proton-K rocket. Four of the six modules which were later added (Kvant-2 in 1989, Kristall in 1990, Spektr in 1995 and Priroda in 1996) followed the same sequence to be added to the main Mir complex. Firstly, the module would be launched independently on its own Proton-K and chase the station automatically. It would then dock to the forward docking port on the core module's docking node, then extend its Lyappa arm to mate with a fixture on the node's exterior. The arm would then lift the module away from the forward docking port and rotate it on to the radial port where it was to mate, before lowering it to dock. The node was equipped with only two Konus drogues, which were required for dockings. This meant that, prior to the arrival of each new module, the node would have to be depressurised to allow spacewalking cosmonauts to manually relocate the drogue to the next port to be occupied.[6][page needed][17][page needed]

The other two expansion modules, Kvant-1 in 1987 and the docking module in 1995, followed different procedures. Kvant-1, having, unlike the four modules mentioned above, no engines of its own, was launched attached to a tug based on the TKS spacecraft which delivered the module to the aft end of the core module instead of the docking node. Once hard docking had been achieved, the tug undocked and deorbited itself. The docking module, meanwhile, was launched aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-74 and mated to the orbiter's Orbiter Docking System. Atlantis then docked, via the module, to Kristall, then left the module behind when it undocked later in the mission.[17][page needed][18] Various other external components, including three truss structures, several experiments and other unpressurised elements were also mounted to the exterior of the station by cosmonauts conducting a total of eighty spacewalks over the course of the station's history.[17][page needed]

The station's assembly marked the beginning of the third generation of space station design, being the first to consist of more than one primary spacecraft (thus opening a new era in space architecture). First generation stations such as Salyut 1 and Skylab had monolithic designs, consisting of one module with no resupply capability; the second generation stations Salyut 6 and Salyut 7 comprised a monolithic station with two ports to allow consumables to be replenished by cargo spacecraft such as Progress. The capability of Mir to be expanded with add-on modules meant that each could be designed with a specific purpose in mind (for instance, the core module functioned largely as living quarters), thus eliminating the need to install all the station's equipment in one module.[17][page needed]

Pressurised modules

In its completed configuration, the space station consisted of seven different modules, each launched into orbit separately over a period of ten years by either Proton-K rockets or Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Module Expedition Launch date Launch system Nation Isolated view Station view
Mir Core Module
(Core Module)
N/A 19 February 1986 Proton-K Soviet Union RP1357 p103 Mir base block.svg
Mir Core Module.JPG
The base block for the entire Mir complex, the core module, or DOS-7, provided the main living quarters for resident crews and contained environmental systems, early attitude control systems and the station's main engines. The module was based on hardware developed as part of the Salyut programme, and consisted of a stepped-cylinder main compartment and a spherical 'node' module, which served as an airlock and provided ports to which four of the station's expansion modules were berthed and to which a Soyuz or Progress spacecraft could dock. The module's aft port served as the berthing location for Kvant-1.[19][page needed]
(Astrophysics Module)
EO-2 31 March 1987 Proton-K Soviet Union RP1357 p162 Kvant module.svg Mir-kvant.jpg
The first expansion module to be launched, Kvant-1 consisted of two pressurised working compartments and one unpressurised experiment compartment. Scientific equipment included an X-ray telescope, an ultraviolet telescope, a wide-angle camera, high-energy X-ray experiments, an X-ray/gamma ray detector, and the Svetlana electrophoresis unit. The module also carried six gyrodynes for attitude control, in addition to life support systems including an Elektron oxygen generator and a Vozdukh carbon dioxide scrubber.[19][page needed]
(Augmentation Module)
EO-5 26 November 1989 Proton-K Soviet Union RP1357 p164 Kvant 2 module.svg Mir Kvant 1-Base Block-Kvant 2.jpg
The first TKS based module, Kvant-2, was divided into three compartments: an EVA airlock, an instrument/cargo compartment (which could function as a backup airlock), and an instrument/experiment compartment. The module also carried a Soviet version of the Manned Maneuvering Unit for the Orlan space suit, referred to as Ikar, a system for regenerating water from urine, a shower, the Rodnik water storage system and six gyrodynes to augment those already located in Kvant-1. Scientific equipment included a high-resolution camera, spectrometers, X-ray sensors, the Volna 2 fluid flow experiment, and the Inkubator-2 unit, which was used for hatching and raising quail.[19][page needed]
(Technology Module)
EO-6 31 May 1990 Proton-K Soviet Union RP1357 p166 Kristall module.svg Mir from Soyuz TM-17.jpg
Kristall, the fourth module, consisted of two main sections. The first was largely used for materials processing (via various processing furnaces), astronomical observations, and a biotechnology experiment utilising the Aniur electrophoresis unit. The second section was a docking compartment which featured two APAS-89 docking ports initially intended for use with the Buran programme and eventually used during the Shuttle-Mir programme. The docking compartment also contained the Priroda 5 camera used for Earth resources experiments. Kristall also carried six control moment gyroscopes (CMGs, or "gyrodynes") for attitude control to augment those already on the station, and two collapsible solar arrays.[19][page needed]
(Power Module)
20 May 1995 Proton-K Russia Spektr module drawing.png Mir from STS-74.jpg
Spektr was the first of the three modules launched during the Shuttle-Mir programme; it served as the living quarters for American astronauts and housed NASA-sponsored experiments. The module was designed for remote observation of Earth's environment and contained atmospheric and surface research equipment. It featured four solar arrays which generated approximately half of the station's electrical power. The module also had a science airlock to expose experiments to the vacuum of space selectively. Spektr was rendered unusable following the collision with Progress M-34 in 1997 which damaged the module, exposing it to the vacuum of space.[17][page needed]
Docking Module EO-20 15 November 1995 Space Shuttle Atlantis
US Mir Docking Module drawing.svg Mir from STS-74PLB.jpg
The docking module was designed to help simplify Space Shuttle dockings to Mir. Before the first shuttle docking mission (STS-71), the Kristall module had to be tediously moved to ensure sufficient clearance between Atlantis and Mir's solar arrays. With the addition of the docking module, enough clearance was provided without the need to relocate Kristall. It had two identical APAS-89 docking ports, one attached to the distal port of Kristall with the other available for shuttle docking.[17][page needed]
(Earth Sensing Module)
EO-21 26 April 1996 Proton-K Russia Priroda module drawing.svg Mir from STS-81.jpg
The seventh and final Mir module, Priroda's primary purpose was to conduct Earth resource experiments through remote sensing and to develop and verify remote sensing methods. The module's experiments were provided by twelve different nations, and covered microwave, visible, near infrared, and infrared spectral regions using both passive and active sounding methods. The module possessed both pressurised and unpressurised segments, and featured a large, externally mounted synthetic aperture radar dish.[17][page needed]

Unpressurised elements

The Travers radar antenna, Sofora girder, VDU thruster block, SPK unit and a Strela crane, alongside Kvant-2 and Priroda

In addition to the pressurised modules, Mir featured several external components. The largest component was the Sofora girder, a large scaffolding-like structure consisting of 20 segments which, when assembled, projected 14 metres from its mount on Kvant-1. A self-contained thruster block, the VDU (Vynosnaya Dvigatyelnaya Ustanovka), was mounted on the end of Sofora and was used to augment the roll-control thrusters on the core module. The VDU's increased distance from Mir's axis allowed an 85% decrease in fuel consumption, reducing the amount of propellant required to orient the station.[17][page needed] A second girder, Rapana, was mounted aft of Sofora on Kvant-1. This girder, a small prototype of a structure intended to be used on Mir-2 to hold large parabolic dishes away from the main station structure, was 5 metres long and used as a mounting point for externally mounted exposure experiments.[17][page needed]

To assist in moving objects around the exterior of the station during EVAs, Mir featured two Strela cargo cranes mounted to the sides of the core module, used for moving spacewalking cosmonauts and parts. The cranes consisted of telescopic poles assembled in sections which measured around 1.8 metres (6 ft) when collapsed, but when extended using a hand crank were 14 metres (46 ft) long, meaning that all of the station's modules could be accessed during spacewalks.[20]

Each module was fitted with external components specific to the experiments that were carried out within that module, the most obvious being the Travers antenna mounted to Priroda. This synthetic aperture radar consisted of a large dish-like framework mounted outside the module, with associated equipment within, used for Earth observations experiments, as was most of the other equipment on Priroda, including various radiometers and scan platforms.[19][page needed] Kvant-2 also featured several scan platforms and was fitted with a mounting bracket to which the cosmonaut manoeuvring unit, or Ikar, was mated. This backpack was designed to assist cosmonauts in moving around the station and the planned Buran in a manner similar to the US Manned Maneuvering Unit, but it was only used once, during EO-5.[17][page needed]

In addition to module-specific equipment, Kvant-2, Kristall, Spektr and Priroda were each equipped with one Lyappa arm, a robotic arm which, after the module had docked to the core module's forward port, grappled one of two fixtures positioned on the core module's docking node. The arriving module's docking probe was then retracted, and the arm raised the module so that it could be pivoted 90° for docking to one of the four radial docking ports.[19][page needed]

Power supply

The four solar arrays on Spektr

Photovoltaic (PV) arrays powered Mir. The station used a 28 volt DC supply which provided 5-, 10-, 20- and 50-amp taps. When the station was illuminated by sunlight, several solar arrays mounted on the pressurised modules provided power to Mir's systems and charged the nickel-cadmium storage batteries installed throughout the station.[17] The arrays rotated in only one degree of freedom over a 180° arc, and tracked the sun using sun sensors and motors installed in the array mounts. The station itself also had to be oriented to ensure optimum illumination of the arrays. When the station's all-sky sensor detected that Mir had entered Earth's shadow, the arrays were rotated to the optimum angle predicted for reacquiring the sun once the station passed out of the shadow. The batteries, each of 60 Ah capacity, were then used to power the station until the arrays recovered their maximum output on the day side of Earth.[17]

The solar arrays themselves were launched and installed over a period of eleven years, more slowly than originally planned, with the station continually suffering from a shortage of power as a result. The first two arrays, each 38 m2 (409 ft2) in area, were launched on the core module, and together provided a total of 9 kW of power. A third, dorsal panel was launched on Kvant-1 and mounted on the core module in 1987, providing a further 2 kW from a 22 m2 (237 ft2) area.[17] Kvant-2, launched in 1989, provided two 10 m (32.8 ft) long panels which supplied 3.5 kW each, whilst Kristall was launched with two collapsible, 15 m (49.2 ft) long arrays (providing 4 kW each) which were intended to be moved to Kvant-1 and installed on mounts which were attached during a spacewalk by the EO-8 crew in 1991.[17][19]

This relocation was begun in 1995, when the panels were retracted and the left panel installed on Kvant-1. By this time all the arrays had degraded and were supplying much less power. To rectify this, Spektr (launched in 1995), which had initially been designed to carry two arrays, was modified to hold four, providing a total of 126 m2 (1360 ft2) of array with a 16 kW supply.[17] Two further arrays were flown to the station on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-74, carried on the docking module. The first of these, the Mir cooperative solar array, consisted of American photovoltaic cells mounted on a Russian frame. It was installed on the unoccupied mount on Kvant-1 in May 1996 and was connected to the socket that had previously been occupied by the core module's dorsal panel, which was by this point barely supplying 1 kW.[17] The other panel, originally intended to be launched on Priroda, replaced the Kristall panel on Kvant-1 in November 1997, completing the station's electrical system.[17]

Orbit control

Graph showing the changing altitude of Mir from 19 February 1986 until 21 March 2001

Mir was maintained in a near circular orbit with an average perigee of 354 km (220 mi) and an average apogee of 374 km (232 mi), travelling at an average speed of 27,700 km/h (17,200 mph) and completing 15.7 orbits per day.[6][7][8] As the station constantly lost altitude because of slight atmospheric drag, it needed to be boosted to a higher altitude several times each year. This boost was generally performed by Progress resupply vessels, although during the Shuttle-Mir programme the task was performed by US Space Shuttles, and, prior to the arrival of Kvant-1, the engines on the core module could also accomplish the task.[17]

Attitude control was maintained by a combination of two mechanisms; in order to hold a set attitude, a system of twelve control moment gyroscopes (CMGs, or "gyrodynes") rotating at 10,000 rpm kept the station oriented, six CMGs being located in each of the Kvant-1 and Kvant-2 modules.[19][21] When the attitude of the station needed to be changed, the gyrodynes were disengaged, thrusters (including those mounted directly to the modules, and the VDU thruster used for roll control mounted to the Sofora girder) were used to attain the new attitude and the CMGs were reengaged.[21] This was done fairly regularly depending on experimental needs; for instance, Earth or astronomical observations required that the instrument recording images be continuously aimed at the target, and so the station was oriented to make this possible.[17] Conversely, materials processing experiments required the minimisation of movement on board the station, and so Mir would be oriented in a gravity gradient attitude for stability.[17] Prior to the arrival of the modules containing these gyrodynes, the station's attitude was controlled using thrusters located on the core module alone, and, in an emergency, the thrusters on docked Soyuz spacecraft could be used to maintain the station's orientation.[17][22][page needed]


Radio communications provided telemetry and scientific data links between Mir and the RKA Mission Control Centre (TsUP). Radio links were also used during rendezvous and docking procedures and for audio and video communication between crew members, flight controllers and family members. As a result, Mir was equipped with several communication systems used for different purposes. The station communicated directly with the ground via the Lira antenna mounted to the core module. The Lira antenna also had the capability to use the Luch data relay satellite system (which fell into disrepair in the 1990s) and the network of Soviet tracking ships deployed in various locations around the world (which also became unavailable in the 1990s).[17] UHF radio was used by cosmonauts conducting EVAs. UHF was also employed by other spacecraft that docked to or undocked from the station, such as Soyuz, Progress, and the Space Shuttle, in order to receive commands from the TsUP and Mir crew members via the TORU system.[17]


Mir in orbit

At Mir's orbital altitude, the force of Earth's gravity was 88% of sea level gravity. While the constant free fall of the station offered a perceived sensation of weightlessness, the onboard environment was not one of weightlessness or zero gravity. The environment was often described as microgravity. This state of perceived weightlessness was not perfect, being disturbed by five separate effects:[23]

  • The drag resulting from the residual atmosphere;
  • Vibratory acceleration caused by mechanical systems and the crew on the station;
  • Orbital corrections by the on-board gyroscopes (which spun at 10,000 rpm, producing vibrations of 166.67 Hz[21]) or thrusters;
  • Tidal forces. Any parts of Mir not at exactly the same distance from Earth tended to follow separate orbits. As each point was physically part of the station, this was impossible, and so each component was subject to small accelerations from tidal forces;
  • The differences in orbital plane between different locations on the station.

Life support

Mir's environmental control and life support system (ECLSS) provided or controlled atmospheric pressure, fire detection, oxygen levels, waste management and water supply. The highest priority for the ECLSS was the station's atmosphere, but the system also collected, processed, and stored waste and water produced and used by the crew—a process that recycles fluid from the sink, toilet, and condensation from the air. The Elektron system generated oxygen. Bottled oxygen and solid fuel oxygen generation (SFOG) canisters, a system known as Vika, provided backup. Carbon dioxide was removed from the air by the Vozdukh system.[17] Other byproducts of human metabolism, such as methane from the intestines and ammonia from sweat, were removed by activated charcoal filters. Similar systems are presently used on the ISS.

The atmosphere on Mir was similar to Earth's.[24] Normal air pressure on the station was 101.3 kPa (14.7 psi); the same as at sea level on Earth.[17] An Earth-like atmosphere offers benefits for crew comfort, and is much safer than the alternative, a pure oxygen atmosphere, because of increased fire risk such as occurred with Apollo 1.[25]

International cooperation

Reinhold Ewald (right) and Vasily Tsibliyev in the core module during Ewald's visit to Mir
Scale model replica of the MIR Space Station at the Euro Space Center Belgium


Interkosmos (Russian: ИнтерКосмос) was a Soviet Union space exploration programme which allowed members from countries allied with the Soviet Union to participate in crewed and uncrewed space exploration missions. Participation was also made available to governments of countries, such as France and India.

Only the last three of the programme's fourteen missions consisted of an expedition to Mir but none resulted in an extended stay in the station:

European involvement

Various European astronauts visited Mir as part of several cooperative programmes:[29]

Shuttle–Mir program

The seven NASA astronauts who carried out long-duration missions on Mir

In the early 1980s, NASA planned to launch a modular space station called Freedom as a counterpart to Mir, while the Soviets were planning to construct Mir-2 in the 1990s as a replacement for the station.[17][page needed] Because of budget and design constraints, Freedom never progressed past mock-ups and minor component tests and, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Space Race, the project was nearly cancelled entirely by the United States House of Representatives. The post-Soviet economic chaos in Russia also led to the cancellation of Mir-2, though only after its base block, DOS-8, had been constructed.[17] Similar budgetary difficulties were faced by other nations with space station projects, which prompted the US government to negotiate with European states, Russia, Japan, and Canada in the early 1990s to begin a collaborative project.[17] In June 1992, American president George H. W. Bush and Russian president Boris Yeltsin agreed to cooperate on space exploration. The resulting Agreement between the United States of America and the Russian Federation Concerning Cooperation in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space for Peaceful Purposes called for a short joint space programme with one American astronaut deployed to the Russian space station Mir and two Russian cosmonauts deployed to a Space Shuttle.[17]

In September 1993, US Vice President Al Gore, Jr., and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced plans for a new space station, which eventually became the ISS.[30] They also agreed, in preparation for this new project, that the United States would be heavily involved in the Mir programme as part of an international project known as the Shuttle–Mir Programme.[31] The project, sometimes called "Phase One", was intended to allow the United States to learn from Russian experience in long-duration spaceflight and to foster a spirit of cooperation between the two nations and their space agencies, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos). The project prepared the way for further cooperative space ventures, specifically, "Phase Two" of the joint project, the construction of the ISS. The programme was announced in 1993; the first mission started in 1994, and the project continued until its scheduled completion in 1998. Eleven Space Shuttle missions, a joint Soyuz flight, and almost 1000 cumulative days in space for US astronauts occurred over the course of seven long-duration expeditions.

Other visitors

Life on board

Time exposure of Mir passing over Earth's surface, May 1997.
A video tour of Mir from September 1996, during STS-79
A view of the interior of the core module's docking node, showing the crowded nature of the station.

Inside, the 130-tonne (140-short-ton) Mir resembled a cramped labyrinth, crowded with hoses, cables and scientific instruments—as well as articles of everyday life, such as photos, children's drawings, books and a guitar. It commonly housed three crew members, but was capable of supporting as many as six for up to a month. The station was designed to remain in orbit for around five years; it remained in orbit for fifteen.[35] As a result, NASA astronaut John Blaha reported that, with the exception of Priroda and Spektr, which were added late in the station's life, Mir did look used, which is to be expected given it had been lived in for ten to eleven years without being brought home and cleaned.[36]

Crew schedule

The time zone used on board Mir was Moscow Time (UTC+03). The windows were covered during night hours to give the impression of darkness because the station experienced 16 sunrises and sunsets a day. A typical day for the crew began with a wake-up at 08:00, followed by two hours of personal hygiene and breakfast. Work was conducted from 10:00 until 13:00, followed by an hour of exercise and an hour's lunch break. Three more hours of work and another hour of exercise followed lunch, and the crews began preparing for their evening meal at about 19:00. The cosmonauts were free to do as they wished in the evening, and largely worked to their own pace during the day.[17]

In their spare time, crews were able to catch up with work, observe the Earth below, respond to letters, drawings and other items brought from Earth (and give them an official stamp to show they had been aboard Mir), or make use of the station's ham radio.[17] Two amateur radio call signs, U1MIR and U2MIR, were assigned to Mir in the late 1980s, allowing amateur radio operators on Earth to communicate with the cosmonauts.[37] The station was also equipped with a supply of books and films for the crew to read and watch.[22]

NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger related how life on board Mir was structured and lived according to the detailed itineraries provided by ground control. Every second on board was accounted for and all activities were timetabled. After working some time on Mir, Linenger came to feel that the order in which his activities were allocated did not represent the most logical or efficient order possible for these activities. He decided to perform his tasks in an order that he felt enabled him to work more efficiently, be less fatigued, and suffer less from stress. Linenger noted that his comrades on Mir did not "improvise" in this way, and as a medical doctor he observed the effects of stress on his comrades that he believed was the outcome of following an itinerary without making modifications to it. Despite this, he commented that his comrades performed all their tasks in a supremely professional manner.[38][page needed]

Astronaut Shannon Lucid, who set the record for longest stay in space by a woman while aboard Mir (surpassed by Sunita Williams 11 years later on the ISS), also commented about working aboard Mir saying "I think going to work on a daily basis on Mir is very similar to going to work on a daily basis on an outstation in Antarctica. The big difference with going to work here is the isolation, because you really are isolated. You don't have a lot of support from the ground. You really are on your own."[36]


Shannon Lucid exercises on a treadmill during her stay aboard Mir.

The most significant adverse effects of long-term weightlessness are muscle atrophy and deterioration of the skeleton, or spaceflight osteopenia. Other significant effects include fluid redistribution, a slowing of the cardiovascular system, decreased production of red blood cells, balance disorders, and a weakening of the immune system. Lesser symptoms include loss of body mass, nasal congestion, sleep disturbance, excess flatulence, and puffiness of the face. These effects begin to reverse quickly upon return to the Earth.[39][page needed]

To prevent some of these effects, the station was equipped with two treadmills (in the core module and Kvant-2) and a stationary bicycle (in the core module); each cosmonaut was to cycle the equivalent of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) and run the equivalent of 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) per day.[17] Cosmonauts used bungee cords to strap themselves to the treadmill. Researchers believe that exercise is a good countermeasure for the bone and muscle density loss that occurs in low-gravity situations.[40]


One of the space toilets used aboard Mir

There were two space toilets (ASUs) on Mir, located in the core module and Kvant-2.[22] They used a fan-driven suction system similar to the Space Shuttle Waste Collection System. The user is first fastened to the toilet seat, which was equipped with spring-loaded restraining bars to ensure a good seal. A lever operated a powerful fan and a suction hole slid open: the air stream carried the waste away. Solid waste was collected in individual bags which were stored in an aluminium container. Full containers were transferred to Progress spacecraft for disposal. Liquid waste was evacuated by a hose connected to the front of the toilet, with anatomically appropriate "urine funnel adapters" attached to the tube so both men and women could use the same toilet. Waste was collected and transferred to the Water Recovery System, where it was recycled back into drinking water, although this was usually used to produce oxygen via the Elektron system.[17]

Mir featured a shower, the Bania, located in Kvant-2. It was an improvement on the units installed in previous Salyut stations, but proved difficult to use due to the time required to set up, use, and stow. The shower, which featured a plastic curtain and fan to collect water via an airflow, was later converted into a steam room; it eventually had its plumbing removed and the space was reused. When the shower was unavailable, crew members washed using wet wipes, with soap dispensed from a toothpaste tube-like container, or using a washbasin equipped with a plastic hood, located in the core module. Crews were also provided with rinse-less shampoo and edible toothpaste to save water.[17]

On a 1998 visit to Mir, bacteria and larger organisms were found to have proliferated in water globules formed from moisture that had condensed behind service panels.[41]

Sleeping in space

Cosmonaut Yury Usachov in his Kayutka

The station provided two permanent crew quarters, the Kayutkas, phonebox-sized booths set towards the rear of the core module, each featuring a tethered sleeping bag, a fold-out desk, a porthole, and storage for personal effects. Visiting crews had no allocated sleep module, instead attaching a sleeping bag to an available space on a wall; US astronauts installed themselves within Spektr until a collision with a Progress spacecraft caused the depressurisation of that module.[17] It was important that crew accommodations be well ventilated; otherwise, astronauts could wake up oxygen-deprived and gasping for air, because a bubble of their own exhaled carbon dioxide had formed around their heads.[42]

Food and drink

Most of the food eaten by station crews was frozen, refrigerated or canned. Meals were prepared by the cosmonauts, with the help of a dietitian, before their flight to the station. The diet was designed to provide around 100 g of protein, 130 g of fat and 330 g of carbohydrates per day, in addition to appropriate mineral and vitamin supplements. Meals were spaced out through the day to aid assimilation.[17] Canned food such as jellied beef tongue was placed into a niche in the core module's table, where it could be warmed in 5–10 minutes. Usually, crews drank tea, coffee and fruit juices, but, unlike the ISS, the station also had a supply of cognac and vodka for special occasions.[22]

Microbiological environmental hazards

In the 1990s samples of extremophile molds were taken from Mir. Ninety species of micro-organisms were found in 1990, four years after the station's launch. By the time of its decommission in 2001, the number of known different micro-organisms had grown to 140. As space stations get older, the problems with contamination get worse.[citation needed] Molds that develop aboard space stations can produce acids that degrade metal, glass and rubber.[43] The molds in Mir were found growing behind panels and inside air-conditioning equipment. The molds also caused a foul smell, which was often cited as visitors' strongest impression.[44] Researchers in 2018 reported, after detecting the presence on the International Space Station (ISS) of five Enterobacter bugandensis bacterial strains, none pathogenic to humans, that microorganisms on ISS should be carefully monitored to continue ensuring a medically healthy environment for the astronauts.[45][46]

Some biologists were concerned about the mutant fungi being a major microbiological hazard for humans, and reaching Earth in the splashdown, after having been in an isolated environment for 15 years.[44]

Station operations


Mir was visited by a total of 28 long-duration or "principal" crews, each of which was given a sequential expedition number formatted as EO-X. Expeditions varied in length (from the 72-day flight of the crew of EO-28 to the 437-day flight of Valeri Polyakov), but generally lasted around six months.[17] Principal expedition crews consisted of two or three crew members, who often launched as part of one expedition but returned with another (Polyakov launched with EO-14 and landed with EO-17).[17] The principal expeditions were often supplemented with visiting crews who remained on the station during the week-long handover period between one crew and the next before returning with the departing crew, the station's life support system being able to support a crew of up to six for short periods.[17][47][page needed] The station was occupied for a total of four distinct periods; 12 March–16 July 1986 (EO-1), 5 February 1987 – 27 April 1989 (EO-2–EO-4), the record-breaking run from 5 September 1989 – 28 August 1999 (EO-5–EO-27), and 4 April–16 June 2000 (EO-28).[47][page needed] By the end, it had been visited by 104 different people from twelve different nations, making it the most visited spacecraft in history (a record later surpassed by the ISS).[17]

Early existence

The core module with Kvant-1 and Soyuz TM-3

Due to pressure to launch the station on schedule, mission planners were left without Soyuz spacecraft or modules to launch to the station at first. It was decided to launch Soyuz T-15 on a dual mission to both Mir and Salyut 7.[15][unreliable source?]

Leonid Kizim and Vladimir Solovyov first docked with Mir on 15 March 1986. During their nearly 51-day stay on Mir, they brought the station online and checked its systems. They unloaded two Progress spacecraft launched after their arrival, Progress 25 and Progress 26.[48]

On 5 May 1986, they undocked from Mir for a day-long journey to Salyut 7. They spent 51 days there and gathered 400 kg of scientific material from Salyut 7 for return to Mir. While Soyuz T-15 was at Salyut 7, the uncrewed Soyuz TM-1 arrived at the unoccupied Mir and remained for 9 days, testing the new Soyuz TM model. Soyuz T-15 redocked with Mir on 26 June and delivered the experiments and 20 instruments, including a multichannel spectrometer. The EO-1 crew spent their last 20 days on Mir conducting Earth observations before returning to Earth on 16 July 1986, leaving the new station unoccupied.[49][unreliable source?]

The second expedition to Mir, EO-2, launched on Soyuz TM-2 on 5 February 1987. During their stay, the Kvant-1 module, launched on 30 March 1987, arrived. It was the first experimental version of a planned series of '37K' modules scheduled to be launched to Mir on Buran. Kvant-1 was originally planned to dock with Salyut 7; due to technical problems during its development, it was reassigned to Mir. The module carried the first set of six gyroscopes for attitude control. The module also carried instruments for X-ray and ultraviolet astrophysical observations.[19]

The initial rendezvous of the Kvant-1 module with Mir on 5 April 1987 was troubled by the failure of the onboard control system. After the failure of the second attempt to dock, the resident cosmonauts, Yuri Romanenko and Aleksandr Laveykin, conducted an EVA to fix the problem. They found a trash bag which had been left in orbit after the departure of one of the previous cargo ships and was now located between the module and the station, which prevented the docking. After removing the bag, docking was completed on 12 April.[50][unreliable source?][51]

The Soyuz TM-2 launch was the beginning of a string of 6 Soyuz launches and three long-duration crews between 5 February 1987 and 27 April 1989. This period also saw the first international visitors, Muhammed Faris (Syria), Abdul Ahad Mohmand (Afghanistan) and Jean-Loup Chrétien (France). With the departure of EO-4 on Soyuz TM-7 on 27 April 1989 the station was again left unoccupied.[17]

Third start

The launch of Soyuz TM-8 on 5 September 1989 marked the beginning of the longest human presence in space, until 23 October 2010, when this record was surpassed by the ISS.[13] It also marked the beginning of Mir's second expansion. The Kvant-2 and Kristall modules were now ready for launch. Alexander Viktorenko and Aleksandr Serebrov docked with Mir and brought the station out of its five-month hibernation. On 29 September the cosmonauts installed equipment in the docking system in preparation for the arrival of Kvant-2, the first of the 20 tonne add-on modules based on the TKS spacecraft from the Almaz programme.[52][unreliable source?]

Mir following the arrival of Kvant-2 in 1989

After a 40-day delay caused by faulty computer chips, Kvant-2 was launched on 26 November 1989. After problems deploying the craft's solar array and with the automated docking systems on both Kvant-2 and Mir, the new module was docked manually on 6 December. Kvant-2 added a second set of control moment gyroscopes (CMGs, or "gyrodynes") to Mir, and brought the new life support systems for recycling water and generating oxygen, reducing dependence on ground resupply. The module featured a large airlock with a one-metre hatch. A special backpack unit (known as Ikar), an equivalent of the US Manned Maneuvering Unit, was located inside Kvant-2's airlock.[52][53]

Soyuz TM-9 launched EO-6 crew members Anatoly Solovyev and Aleksandr Balandin on 11 February 1990. While docking, the EO-5 crew noted that three thermal blankets on the ferry were loose, potentially creating problems on reentry, but it was decided that they would be manageable. Their stay on board Mir saw the addition of the Kristall module, launched 31 May 1990. The first docking attempt on 6 June was aborted due to an attitude control thruster failure. Kristall arrived at the front port on 10 June and was relocated to the lateral port opposite Kvant-2 the next day, restoring the equilibrium of the complex. Due to the delay in the docking of Kristall, EO-6 was extended by 10 days to permit the activation of the module's systems and to accommodate an EVA to repair the loose thermal blankets on Soyuz TM-9.[54][unreliable source?]

Kristall contained furnaces for use in producing crystals under microgravity conditions (hence the choice of name for the module). The module was also equipped with biotechnology research equipment, including a small greenhouse for plant cultivation experiments which was equipped with a source of light and a feeding system, in addition to equipment for astronomical observations. The most obvious features of the module were the two Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS-89) docking ports designed to be compatible with the Buran spacecraft. Although they were never used in a Buran docking, they were useful later during the Shuttle-Mir programme, providing a berthing location for US Space Shuttles.[55]

The EO-7 relief crew arrived aboard Soyuz TM-10 on 3 August 1990. The new crew arrived at Mir with quail for Kvant-2's cages, one of which laid an egg en route to the station. It was returned to Earth, along with 130 kg of experiment results and industrial products, in Soyuz TM-9.[54] Two more expeditions, EO-8 and , continued the work of their predecessors whilst tensions grew back on Earth.

Post-Soviet period

A view of Mir from Soyuz TM-17 on 3 July 1993 showing ongoing docking operations at the station

The crew, launched aboard Soyuz TM-13 on 2 October 1991, was the last crew to launch from the USSR and continued the occupation of Mir during the fall of the Soviet Union. The crew launched as Soviet citizens and returned to Earth on 25 March 1992 as Russians. The newly formed Russian Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) was unable to finance the unlaunched Spektr and Priroda modules, instead putting them into storage and ending Mir's second expansion.[56][unreliable source?][57][unreliable source?][58][unreliable source?]

The first human mission flown from an independent Kazakhstan was Soyuz TM-14, launched on 17 March 1992, which carried the crew to Mir, docking on 19 March before the departure of Soyuz TM-13. On 17 June, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and US President George H. W. Bush announced what would later become the Shuttle-Mir programme, a cooperative venture which proved useful to the cash-strapped Roskosmos (and led to the eventual completion and launch of Spektr and Priroda). EO-12 followed in July, alongside a brief visit by French astronaut Michel Tognini.[47][page needed] The following crew, , began preparations for the Shuttle-Mir programme by flying to the station in a modified spacecraft, Soyuz TM-16 (launched on 26 January 1993), which was equipped with an APAS-89 docking system rather than the usual probe-and-drogue, enabling it to dock to Kristall and test the port which would later be used by US space shuttles. The spacecraft also enabled controllers to obtain data on the dynamics of docking a spacecraft to a space station off the station's longitudinal axis, in addition to data on the structural integrity of this configuration via a test called Rezonans conducted on 28 January. Soyuz TM-15, meanwhile, departed with the EO-12 crew on 1 February.[47][page needed]

Throughout the period following the collapse of the USSR, crews on Mir experienced occasional reminders of the economic chaos occurring in Russia. The initial cancellation of Spektr and Priroda was the first such sign, followed by the reduction in communications as a result of the fleet of tracking ships being withdrawn from service by Ukraine. The new Ukrainian government also vastly raised the price of the Kurs docking systems, manufactured in Kyiv – the Russians' attempts to reduce their dependence on Kurs would later lead to accidents during TORU tests in 1997. Various Progress spacecraft had parts of their cargoes missing, either because the consumable in question had been unavailable, or because the ground crews at Baikonur had looted them. The problems became particularly obvious during the launch of the crew aboard Soyuz TM-17 in July; shortly before launch there was a black-out at the pad, and the power supply to the nearby city of Leninsk failed an hour after launch.[17][47][page needed] Nevertheless, the spacecraft launched on time and arrived at the station two days later. All of Mir's ports were occupied, and so Soyuz TM-17 had to station-keep 200 metres away from the station for half an hour before docking while Progress M-18 vacated the core module's front port and departed.[47][page needed]

The EO-13 crew departed on 22 July, and soon after Mir passed through the annual Perseid meteor shower, during which the station was hit by several particles. A spacewalk was conducted on 28 September to inspect the station's hull, but no serious damage was reported. Soyuz TM-18 arrived on 10 January 1994 carrying the crew (including Valeri Polyakov, who was to remain on Mir for 14 months), and Soyuz TM-17 left on 14 January. The undocking was unusual in that the spacecraft was to pass along Kristall in order to obtain photographs of the APAS to assist in the training of space shuttle pilots. Due to an error in setting up the control system, the spacecraft struck the station a glancing blow during the manoeuvre, scratching the exterior of Kristall.[47][page needed]

On 3 February 1994, Mir veteran Sergei Krikalev became the first Russian cosmonaut to launch on a US spacecraft, flying on Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-60.[59]

The launch of Soyuz TM-19, carrying the crew, was delayed due to the unavailability of a payload fairing for the booster that was to carry it, but the spacecraft eventually left Earth on 1 July 1994 and docked two days later. They stayed only four months to allow the Soyuz schedule to line up with the planned space shuttle manifest, and so Polyakov greeted a second resident crew in October, prior to the undocking of Soyuz TM-19, when the crew arrived in Soyuz TM-20.[47][page needed]


Space Shuttle Atlantis docked to Mir on STS-71.

The 3 February launch of Space Shuttle Discovery, flying STS-63, opened operations on Mir for 1995. Referred to as the "near-Mir" mission, the mission saw the first rendezvous of a Space Shuttle with Mir as the orbiter approached within 37 feet (11 m) of the station as a dress rehearsal for later docking missions and for equipment testing.[60][61][62] Five weeks after Discovery's departure, the crew, including the first US cosmonaut Norman Thagard, arrived in Soyuz TM-21. The EO-17 crew left a few days later, with Polyakov completing his record-breaking 437-day spaceflight. During EO-18, the Spektr science module (which served as living and working space for American astronauts) was launched aboard a Proton rocket and docked to the station, carrying research equipment from America and other nations. The expedition's crew returned to Earth aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis following the first Shuttle–Mir docking mission, STS-71.[17][22][page needed] Atlantis, launched on 27 June 1995, successfully docked with Mir on 29 June becoming the first US spacecraft to dock with a Russian spacecraft since the ASTP in 1975.[63] The orbiter delivered the EO-19 crew and returned the EO-18 crew to Earth.[60][64][65] The EO-20 crew were launched on 3 September, followed in November by the arrival of the docking module during STS-74.[18][60][66][67]

The two-man EO-21 crew was launched on 21 February 1996 aboard Soyuz TM-23 and were soon joined by US crew member Shannon Lucid, who was brought to the station by Atlantis during STS-76. This mission saw the first joint US spacewalk on Mir take place deploying the Mir Environmental Effects Payload package on the docking module.[68] Lucid became the first American to carry out a long-duration mission aboard Mir with her 188-day mission, which set the US single spaceflight record. During Lucid's time aboard Mir, Priroda, the station's final module, arrived as did French visitor Claudie Haigneré flying the Cassiopée mission. The flight aboard Soyuz TM-24 also delivered the crew of Valery Korzun and Aleksandr Kaleri.[17][60][69]

Lucid's stay aboard Mir ended with the flight of Atlantis on STS-79, which launched on 16 September. This, the fourth docking, saw John Blaha transferring onto Mir to take his place as resident US astronaut. His stay on the station improved operations in several areas, including transfer procedures for a docked space shuttle, "hand-over" procedures for long-duration American crew members and "ham" amateur radio communications, and also saw two spacewalks to reconfigure the station's power grid. Blaha spent four months with the EO-22 crew before returning to Earth aboard Atlantis on STS-81 in January 1997, at which point he was replaced by physician Jerry Linenger.[60][70][71] During his flight, Linenger became the first American to conduct a spacewalk from a foreign space station and the first to test the Russian-built Orlan-M spacesuit alongside Russian cosmonaut Vasili Tsibliyev, flying EO-23. All three crew members of EO-23 performed a "fly-around" in Soyuz TM-25 spacecraft.[17] Linenger and his Russian crewmates Vasili Tsibliyev and Aleksandr Lazutkin faced several difficulties during the mission, including the most severe fire aboard an orbiting spacecraft (caused by a malfunctioning Vika), failures of various systems, a near collision with Progress M-33 during a long-distance TORU test and a total loss of station electrical power. The power failure also caused a loss of attitude control, which led to an uncontrolled "tumble" through space.[17][22][page needed][38][page needed][60]

Damaged solar arrays on Mir's Spektr module following a collision with Progress-M34 in September 1997

Linenger was succeeded by Anglo-American astronaut Michael Foale, carried up by Atlantis on STS-84, alongside Russian mission specialist Elena Kondakova. Foale's increment proceeded fairly normally until 25 June when during the second test of the Progress manual docking system, TORU, Progress M-34 collided with solar arrays on the Spektr module and crashed into the module's outer shell, puncturing the module and causing depressurisation on the station. Only quick actions on the part of the crew, cutting cables leading to the module and closing Spektr's hatch, prevented the crews having to abandon the station in Soyuz TM-25. Their efforts stabilised the station's air pressure, whilst the pressure in Spektr, containing many of Foale's experiments and personal effects, dropped to a vacuum.[22][page needed][60] In an effort to restore some of the power and systems lost following the isolation of Spektr and to attempt to locate the leak, EO-24 commander Anatoly Solovyev and flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov carried out a risky salvage operation later in the flight, entering the empty module during a so-called "intra-vehicular activity" or "IVA" spacewalk and inspecting the condition of hardware and running cables through a special hatch from Spektr's systems to the rest of the station. Following these first investigations, Foale and Solovyev conducted a 6-hour EVA outside Spektr to inspect the damage.[60][72]

After these incidents, the US Congress and NASA considered whether to abandon the programme out of concern for the astronauts' safety, but NASA administrator Daniel Goldin decided to continue.[38][page needed] The next flight to Mir, STS-86, carried David Wolf aboard Atlantis. During the orbiter's stay, Titov and Parazynski conducted a spacewalk to affix a cap to the docking module for a future attempt by crew members to seal the leak in Spektr's hull.[60][73] Wolf spent 119 days aboard Mir with the EO-24 crew and was replaced during STS-89 with Andy Thomas, who carried out the last US expedition on Mir.[60][74] The crew arrived in Soyuz TM-27 in January 1998 before Thomas returned to Earth on the final Shuttle–Mir mission, STS-91.[60][75][76]

Final days and deorbit

Mir breaks up in Earth's atmosphere over the South Pacific on 23 March 2001.

Following the 8 June 1998 departure of Discovery, the EO-25 crew of Budarin and Musabayev remained on Mir, completing materials experiments and compiling a station inventory. On 2 July, Roskosmos director Yuri Koptev announced that, due to a lack of funding to keep Mir active, the station would be deorbited in June 1999.[17] The crew of Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev arrived on 15 August in Soyuz TM-28, alongside physicist Yuri Baturin, who departed with the EO-25 crew on 25 August in Soyuz TM-27. The crew carried out two spacewalks, one inside Spektr to reseat some power cables and another outside to set up experiments delivered by Progress M-40, which also carried a large amount of propellant to begin alterations to Mir's orbit in preparation for the station's decommissioning. 20 November 1998 saw the launch of Zarya, the first module of the ISS, but delays to the new station's service module Zvezda had led to calls for Mir to be kept in orbit past 1999. Roscosmos confirmed that it would not fund Mir past the set deorbit date.[17]

The crew of , Viktor Afanasyev and Jean-Pierre Haigneré, arrived in Soyuz TM-29 on 22 February 1999 alongside Ivan Bella, who returned to Earth with Padalka in Soyuz TM-28. The crew carried out three EVAs to retrieve experiments and deploy a prototype communications antenna on Sofora. On 1 June it was announced that the deorbit of the station would be delayed by six months to allow time to seek alternative funding to keep the station operating. The rest of the expedition was spent preparing the station for its deorbit; a special analog computer was installed and each of the modules, starting with the docking module, was mothballed in turn and sealed off. The crew loaded their results into Soyuz TM-29 and departed Mir on 28 August 1999, ending a run of continuous occupation, which had lasted for eight days short of ten years.[17] The station's control moment gyroscopes (CMGs, or "gyrodynes") and main computer were shut down on 7 September, leaving Progress M-42 to control Mir and refine the station's orbital decay rate.[17]

Near the end of its life, there were plans for private interests to purchase Mir, possibly for use as the first orbital television/movie studio[citation needed]. The privately funded Soyuz TM-30 mission by MirCorp, launched on 4 April 2000, carried two crew members, Sergei Zalyotin and Aleksandr Kaleri, to the station for two months to do repair work with the hope of proving that the station could be made safe. This was to be the last crewed mission to Mir—while Russia was optimistic about Mir's future, its commitments to the ISS project left no funding to support the aging station.[17][77]

Mir's deorbit was carried out in three stages. The first stage involved waiting for atmospheric drag to reduce the station's orbit to an average of 220 kilometres (140 mi). This began with the docking of Progress M1-5, a modified version of the Progress-M carrying 2.5 times more fuel in place of supplies. The second stage was the transfer of the station into a 165 × 220 km (103 × 137 mi) orbit. This was achieved with two burns of Progress M1-5's control engines at 00:32 UTC and 02:01 UTC on 23 March 2001. After a two-orbit pause, the third and final stage of the deorbit began with the burn of Progress M1-5's control engines and main engine at 05:08 UTC, lasting 22+ minutes. Atmospheric reentry (arbitrarily defined beginning at 100 km/60 mi AMSL) occurred at 05:44 UTC near Nadi, Fiji. Major destruction of the station began around 05:52 UTC and most of the unburned fragments fell into the South Pacific Ocean around 06:00 UTC.[78][79]

Visiting spacecraft

Soyuz TM-24 docked with Mir as seen from the Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-79

Mir was primarily supported by the Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and had two ports available for docking them. Initially, the fore and aft ports of the core module could be used for dockings, but following the permanent berthing of Kvant-1 to the aft port in 1987, the rear port of the new module took on this role from the core module's aft port. Each port was equipped with the plumbing required for Progress cargo ferries to replace the station's fluids and also the guidance systems needed to guide the spacecraft for docking. Two such systems were used on Mir; the rear ports of both the core module and Kvant-1 were equipped with both the Igla and Kurs systems, whilst the core module's forward port featured only the newer Kurs.[17]

Soyuz spacecraft provided personnel access to and from the station allowing for crew rotations and cargo return, and also functioned as a lifeboat for the station, allowing for a relatively quick return to Earth in the event of an emergency.[47][page needed][80] Two models of Soyuz flew to Mir; Soyuz T-15 was the only Igla-equipped Soyuz-T to visit the station, whilst all other flights used the newer, Kurs-equipped Soyuz-TM. A total of 31 (30 crewed, 1 uncrewed) Soyuz spacecraft flew to the station over a fourteen-year period.[47][page needed]

The uncrewed Progress cargo vehicles were only used to resupply the station, carrying a variety of cargoes including water, fuel, food and experimental equipment. The spacecraft were not equipped with reentry shielding and so, unlike their Soyuz counterparts, were incapable of surviving reentry.[81] As a result, when its cargo had been unloaded, each Progress was refilled with rubbish, spent equipment and other waste which was destroyed, along with the Progress itself, on reentry.[47][page needed] In order to facilitate cargo return, ten Progress flights carried Raduga capsules, which could return around 150 kg of experimental results to Earth automatically.[47] Mir was visited by three separate models of Progress; the original 7K-TG variant equipped with Igla (18 flights), the Progress-M model equipped with Kurs (43 flights), and the modified Progress-M1 version (3 flights), which together flew a total of 64 resupply missions.[47] Whilst the Progress spacecraft usually docked automatically without incident, the station was equipped with a remote manual docking system, TORU, in case problems were encountered during the automatic approaches. With TORU, cosmonauts could guide the spacecraft safely in to dock (with the exception of the catastrophic docking of Progress M-34, when the long-range use of the system resulted in the spacecraft's striking the station, damaging Spektr and causing decompression).[17]

In addition to the routine Soyuz and Progress flights, it was anticipated that Mir would also be the destination for flights by the Soviet Buran space shuttle, which was intended to deliver extra modules (based on the same "37K" bus as Kvant-1) and provide a much improved cargo return service to the station. Kristall carried two Androgynous Peripheral Attach System (APAS-89) docking ports designed to be compatible with the shuttle. One port was to be used for Buran; the other for the planned Pulsar X-2 telescope, also to be delivered by Buran.[17][55] The cancellation of the Buran programme meant these capabilities were not realised until the 1990s when the ports were used instead by US Space Shuttles as part of the Shuttle-Mir programme (after testing by the specially modified Soyuz TM-16 in 1993). Initially, visiting Space Shuttle orbiters docked directly to Kristall, but this required the relocation of the module to ensure sufficient distance between the shuttle and Mir's solar arrays.[17] To eliminate the need to move the module and retract solar arrays for clearance issues, a Mir Docking Module was later added to the end of Kristall.[82] The shuttles provided crew rotation of the American astronauts on station and carried cargo to and from the station, performing some of the largest transfers of cargo of the time. With a space shuttle docked to Mir, the temporary enlargements of living and working areas amounted to a complex that was the largest spacecraft in history at that time, with a combined mass of 250 tonnes (280 short tons).[17]

Mission control centre

Mir and its resupply missions were controlled from the Russian mission control centre (Russian: Центр управления полётами) in Korolyov, near the RKK Energia plant. Referred to by its acronym ЦУП ("TsUP"), or simply as 'Moscow', the facility could process data from up to ten spacecraft in three separate control rooms, although each control room was dedicated to a single programme; one to Mir; one to Soyuz; and one to the Soviet space shuttle Buran (which was later converted for use with the ISS).[83][84] The facility is now used to control the Russian Orbital Segment of the ISS.[83] The flight control team were assigned roles similar to the system used by NASA at their mission control centre in Houston, including:[84]

  • The Flight Director, who provided policy guidance and communicated with the mission management team;
  • The Flight Shift Director, who was responsible for real-time decisions within a set of flight rules;
  • The Mission Deputy Shift Manager (MDSM) for the MCC was responsible for the control room's consoles, computers and peripherals;
  • The MDSM for Ground Control was responsible for communications;
  • The MDSM for Crew Training was similar to NASA's 'capcom,' or capsule communicator; usually someone who had served as the Mir crew's lead trainer.

Unused equipment

Three command and control modules were constructed for the Mir program. One was used in space; one remained in a Moscow warehouse as a source of repair parts if needed,[85] and the third eventually was sold to an educational/entertainment complex in the US. In 1997, "Tommy Bartlett's World & Exploratory" purchased the unit and had it shipped to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, where it became the centrepiece of the complex's Space Exploration wing.[86]

Safety aspects

Ageing systems and atmosphere

In the later years of the programme, particularly during the Shuttle-Mir programme, Mir suffered from various systems failures. It had been designed for five years of use, but eventually flew for fifteen, and in the 1990s was showing its age, with frequent computer crashes, loss of power, uncontrolled tumbles through space and leaking pipes. Jerry Linenger in his book about his time on the facility says that the cooling system had developed tiny leaks too small and numerous to be repaired, that permitted the constant release of coolant. He says that it was especially noticeable after he had made a spacewalk and become used to the bottled air in his spacesuit. When he returned to the station and again began breathing the air inside Mir, he was shocked by the intensity of the smell and worried about the possible negative health effects of breathing such contaminated air.[38][page needed]

Various breakdowns of the Elektron oxygen-generating system were a concern; they led crews to become increasingly reliant on the backup Vika solid-fuel oxygen generator (SFOG) systems, which led to a fire during the handover between EO-22 and EO-23.[17][22][page needed] (see also ISS ECLSS)


A charred panel in Kvant-1 following the Vika fire

Several accidents occurred which threatened the station's safety, such as the glancing collision between Kristall and Soyuz TM-17 during proximity operations in January 1994. The three most alarming incidents occurred during EO-23. The first was on 23 February 1997 during the handover period from to EO-23, when a malfunction occurred in the backup Vika system, a chemical oxygen generator later known as solid-fuel oxygen generator (SFOG). The Vika malfunction led to a fire which burned for around 90 seconds (according to official sources at the TsUP; astronaut Jerry Linenger insists the fire burned for around 14 minutes), and produced large amounts of toxic smoke that filled the station for around 45 minutes. This forced the crew to don respirators, but some of the respirator masks initially worn were broken. Some of the fire extinguishers mounted on the walls of the newer modules were immovable.[22][page needed][38][page needed]

Picture of the damage caused by the collision with Progress M-34. Picture was taken by Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS 86

The other two accidents concerned testing of the station's TORU manual docking system to manually dock Progress M-33 and Progress M-34. The tests were to gauge the performance of long-distance docking and the feasibility of removal of the expensive Kurs automatic docking system from Progress spacecraft. Due to malfunctioning equipment, both tests failed, with Progress M-33 narrowly missing the station and Progress M-34 striking Spektr and puncturing the module, causing the station to depressurise and leading to Spektr being permanently sealed off. This in turn led to a power crisis aboard Mir as the module's solar arrays produced a large proportion of the station's electrical supply, causing the station to power down and begin to drift, requiring weeks of work to rectify before work could continue as normal.[17][22][page needed]

Radiation and orbital debris

Without the protection of the Earth's atmosphere, cosmonauts were exposed to higher levels of radiation from a steady flux of cosmic rays and trapped protons from the South Atlantic Anomaly. The station's crews were exposed to an absorbed dose of about 5.2 cGy over the course of the expedition, producing an equivalent dose of 14.75 cSv, or 1133 µSv per day.[87][88] This daily dose is approximately that received from natural background radiation on Earth in two years.[89] The radiation environment of the station was not uniform; closer proximity to the station's hull led to an increased radiation dose, and the strength of radiation shielding varied between modules; Kvant-2's being better than the core module, for instance.[90]

The increased radiation levels pose a higher risk of crews developing cancer, and can cause damage to the chromosomes of lymphocytes. These cells are central to the immune system and so any damage to them could contribute to the lowered immunity experienced by cosmonauts. Over time, in theory, lowered immunity results in the spread of infection between crew members, especially in such confined areas. To avoid this only healthy people were permitted aboard. Radiation has also been linked to a higher incidence of cataracts in cosmonauts. Protective shielding and protective drugs may lower the risks to an acceptable level, but data is scarce and longer-term exposure will result in greater risks.[39][page needed]

At the low altitudes at which Mir orbited there is a variety of space debris, consisting of everything from entire spent rocket stages and defunct satellites, to explosion fragments, paint flakes, slag from solid rocket motors,[91] coolant released by RORSAT nuclear powered satellites,[92] small needles, and many other objects. These objects, in addition to natural micrometeoroids,[93] posed a threat to the station as they could puncture pressurised modules and cause damage to other parts of the station, such as the solar arrays.[94] Micrometeoroids also posed a risk to spacewalking cosmonauts, as such objects could puncture their spacesuits, causing them to depressurise.[95] Meteor showers in particular posed a risk, and, during such storms, the crews slept in their Soyuz ferries to facilitate an emergency evacuation should Mir be damaged.[17]

See also


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External links

Preceded by
Salyut 7
Succeeded by
Mir-2 as the ROS in the ISS

19 December 2001

Argentine economic crisis: December riots: Riots erupt in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Obelisco 20Dic01.jpg
Protests in the city of Buenos Aires on December 20, 2001.
Date19–20 December 2001
Caused byEconomic crisis
Political instability
Crisis of the Convertibility plan
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Fernando de la Rúa
Casualties and losses
39 civilians killed.[1]
1998–2002 Argentine
great depression

Economy of Argentina
Peso (currency)
Convertibility plan
2001 riots
Economic emergency law
Debt restructuring

The December 2001 crisis, sometimes known as the Argentinazo[2][3][4][5] (pronounced [aɾxentiˈnaso]), was a period of civil unrest and rioting in Argentina, which took place during December 2001, with the most violent incidents taking place on 19 and 20 December in the capital, Buenos Aires, Rosario and other large cities around the country. It was preceded by a popular revolt against the Argentine government, rallying behind the motto "All of them must go!" (Spanish: ¡Que se vayan todos!), which caused the resignation of then-president Fernando de la Rúa, giving way to a period of political instability during which five government officials performed the duties of the Argentinian presidency. This period of instability occurred during the larger period of crisis known as the Argentine great depression, an economic, political, and social crisis that lasted from 1998 until 2002.

The December 2001 crisis was a direct response to the government's imposition of "Corral" policies (Spanish: Corralito) at the behest of economic minister Domingo Cavallo, which restricted people's ability to withdraw cash from banks. Rioting and protests became widespread on 19 December 2001, immediately following the president's declaration of a state of emergency and his resignation on the following day. A state of extreme institutional instability continued for the next twelve days, during which the successor president Adolfo Rodríguez Saá resigned as well. While the degree of instability subsided, the events of December 2001 would become a blow against the legitimacy of the Argentine government that would persist for the following years.[citation needed]

The majority of the participants in the protests were unaffiliated with any political party or organization. Over the course of the protests, 39 people were killed by police and security forces, most of them during sackings in provinces governed by the Peronists opposition. Of the 39 killed, nine were minors, which is an indication of the degree of repression ordered by the government to oppose the protests.


The Argentinian economy

Fernando de la Rúa, as the candidate for the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education, had assumed the role of president in December 1999 in the middle of a recession, which was caused in part by the Convertibility plan (Spanish: Ley de Convertibilidad) passed in 1991 which pegged the value of the Argentine peso to the United States dollar.

While political reforms under the previous president Carlos Menem had succeeded in reducing inflation, the downsides of his economic policies became more and more apparent starting in 1997.[citation needed] Maintaining the convertibility of pesos to dollars required the government of Argentina to obtain an abundant supply of American dollars. At first, this supply was maintained by the privatization of nearly all of the Argentinian state's industries and pension funds. As the privatization process was completed, Argentina's agriculture export-based economy was unable to maintain a sufficient flow of dollars to the state, and the system began to require more and more sovereign debt.

Fernando de la Rúa's presidency

One of the key factors leading to the victory of the Alliance in the 1999 elections was its promise to uphold the convertibility plan. One of de la Rúa's campaign slogans declared "With me, one peso, one dollar" (Spanish: Conmigo, un peso, un dólar). Despite a changing international economic situation (including economic downturns in Brazil, one of Argentina's key economic partners), and mounting demands for increased monetary sovereignty,[by whom?] the Alliance committed itself to maintain the status quo at all costs.

October 2000 Crisis

De la Rúa's political situation was precarious. His arrival to power in 1999 had been possible thanks to the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education (Spanish: Alianza para el Trabajo, la Justicia y la Educación), a coalition formed by the Radical Civic Union and the FrePaSo, which managed to defeat the incumbent Justicialist Party (the Peronist party) in that year's presidential elections. However, the Alliance (as it was known) failed to achieve a majority in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and lost the provincial elections to the Peronists, who then remained in charge of large and critical districts such as the Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Santa Fe provinces.

The government coalition was strained from the first moment; the FrePaSo leaders resented being "junior members" of the government (being forced to that position after losing their bid to the Governorship of Buenos Aires), while the Radicals were divided between their left- and right-leaning factions (De la Rúa was a leader of the party's conservatives), especially regarding economic policy. In late 2000 a political scandal broke out when it was reported that SIDE, Argentina's intelligence service, had paid massive bribes to a number of senators to approve a controversial Labor Reform Act. The head of SIDE, Fernando de Santibañes, was a personal friend of De la Rúa. The crisis came to a head on October 2000 when Vice President Carlos Álvarez resigned, citing De la Rúa's unwillingness to tackle corruption.

March 2001 Crisis

De la Rúa's economic policies suffered a severe blow in March 2001 when Economy Minister José Luis Machinea resigned from office. He was briefly replaced by the then-Defense Minister Ricardo López Murphy, who himself was forced to resign following negative reception to his shock program. After only two weeks in office, López Murphy was replaced by Domingo Cavallo, who had previously served as Economy Minister between 1991 and 1996, and who was the original author of the Convertibility plan during Menem's presidency.

Because of the worsening economic situation and mounting foreign debt, the government enacted two enormous campaigns of debt-expansion and refinancing under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), named "The armoring" (Spanish: El blindaje) and "The Megaexchange" (Spanish: El Megacanje) respectively. From the first moment, there were allegations of corruption and money laundering about the megacanje.[citation needed]

The crisis also caused the resignation of all the FrePaSo Cabinet ministers, leaving de la Rúa without political support. The congressional elections of October 2001 were a disaster for the government, which lost many of its seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to the Peronists. The election results marked also a growing unrest within Argentina's voters, who took to cast millions of null or blank votes. The Peronists seized the opportunity to appoint Senator Ramón Puerta to be President Pro-Tempore of the Argentine Senate, a situation which added to De la Rúa's political weakness since in the Argentine system the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate is next in line for the Presidency after the Vice President. With no Vice President of its own, Puerta's designation meant that De la Rúa had a virtual Peronist Vice President.

Social unrest was also growing. Since the late 1990s, protest movements had formed in Argentina, notably the piqueteros ("picketeers"), initially made up of unemployed workers. The piqueteros blockaded major roads and highways demanding government subsidies and other welfare measures. They featured prominently during the March 2001 crisis.

The crisis reached a breaking point on 29 November 2001, as major investors began to withdraw their deposits from the banks, summarily causing the collapse of the Argentinian banking system due to capital flight. This was compounded by the IMF's decision to refuse to refinance Argentina's debt.


At the beginning of December 2001, the IMF cut off the flow of funds to Argentina and capital flight became uncontrollable, with 25% of all the money in Argentinian banks having been withdrawn since the beginning of 2001. On 2 December, Finance Minister Cavallo announced a national cash-withdrawal limit of $250/week. Popular opinion was very negative, especially amongst the middle class (bearing in mind that the weekly withdrawal limit was higher than the total savings of the majority of the Argentinian population), for whom the economic crisis caused a breach of political confidence. Protests were held throughout December, although the largest and most important protests were those held on 19 and 20 December.

Although people could still use their money via credit cards, checks and other forms of non-cash payments, the enforcement of these measures caused delays and problems for the general population and especially for businesses. Massive queues at every bank and growing reports of political crisis contributed to inflame Argentina's political scenario.

De la Rúa's position had become unsustainable, and an attempt by the Catholic Church to mediate between the government and the opposition in mid-December failed. Between 16 and 19 December there were several incidents involving unemployed activists and protesters which demanded the handing-out of food bags from supermarkets. These incidents ended up with outright looting of supermarkets and convenience stores on 18 December, taking place on Rosario and the Greater Buenos Aires areas.

General strike and looting

On 13 December, the General Confederation of Labour and the Argentine Workers' Central Union declared their seventh general strike against the policies of de la Rúa's government. The strike had a high participation rate, including strikes in sectors that rarely participated in general strikes, such as the financial sector and un-unionized workplaces.

During the time of the strike, there were riots in the working class neighborhoods of some cities, largely instigated by the striking piqueteros. Looting occurred in various commercial districts in the country's interior and in Buenos Aires. Thousands of people participated in looting, truck-robbery, and street-blocking. From 13 to 19 December, seven people were killed by security forces and shopowners.

19 December

19 December 2001, President De la Rúa declares the state of siege throughout the country. Following the broadcast, a strong "cacerolazo" took place in Buenos Aires and other major cities of Argentina, and thousands took the streets and main plazas in protest. (video in Spanish)

Throughout the day new lootings took place, and the Government believed that Peronist agitators were fueling the protests, especially in the province of Buenos Aires. This came after noting that the lootings often took place in Peronist-governed towns, and that the Buenos Aires Provincial Police (which ultimately answered to Buenos Aires Governor Carlos Ruckauf, a top Peronist) was strangely mild in restoring order. With violence mounting across Argentina's major cities, President De la Rúa began to consider alternative measures to restore order.

The first option considered was to deploy the military to contain the violence. However, Argentine legislation forbids military intervention in domestic security matters unless the police and security forces are overwhelmed, a situation quickly pointed out by the Chairman of the Joint General Staff and the Chiefs of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The military also pointed out that they would only intervene if their deployment was authorized by a law voted in Congress, something impossible given the Peronist majority in both Houses. The Argentine military was unwilling to take the blame if violence grew worse, learning from what had previously happened when President Isabel Perón issued an executive order commanding them to fight the subversive guerrilla movements of the 1970s (see Dirty War).

With military intervention no longer an option, De la Rúa resorted to declare a state of siege (essentially a state of emergency) throughout the country, deploying the Federal Police, the National Gendarmerie (border guard) and the Naval Prefecture (coast guard) to contain the growing violence.

Later that night, De la Rúa addressed the nation to announce the state of siege and to call the Peronists to negotiate a "government of national unity". Following the broadcast, spontaneous cacerolazos ("pot banging") took place throughout Buenos Aires and other major cities, signaling the middle-class' own unrest. 19 December concluded with the resignation of Domingo Cavallo, who had lost whatever support he had within the government. Groups of protesters mobilized throughout Buenos Aires, some of them arriving to Plaza de Mayo, where there were incidents with the Federal Police forces.

20 December

Police intervention in the conflict

What had begun as rioting by unemployed and leftist-leaning groups had turned into a middle-class protest with the cacerolazos, and the resignation of Cavallo did nothing to calm down the situation.[6] The De la Rúa administration had agreed with the military to participate in an emergency handing-out of food, however, the plan failed due to lack of cooperation from the Ministry of Social Development.

Throughout the morning, groups of protesters converged on Plaza de Mayo despite the state of siege.[7] The Federal Police, acting under orders from the government, proceeded to try to control the protests. An attempt by a federal judge to halt police operations was disregarded, and the situation worsened with the arrival of new groups of protesters.

As violence expanded, President De la Rúa tried to impose censorship on all news outlets from Buenos Aires. The idea was to use the state of siege to force the television networks to stop transmitting current events and broadcast emergency programming. This plan also failed because De la Rúa's own Media Secretary refused to carry out his instructions. The state's repression was thus broadcast both within Argentina and abroad, causing further mobilizations toward the Plaza.

Violent incidents between the police and protesters spread throughout the country. The most notorious ones took place at the Plaza de Mayo, where five people were killed. Some claim that the deaths were provoked by covert elements of the Buenos Aires Provincial Police in an attempt to further destabilize De la Rúa.[citation needed]

With his options steadily being reduced, De la Rúa went onto national television at 4 p.m. to offer the Peronists to join the government and try to bring some peace to the country. At that time, a caucus of Peronist governors was taking place at a country villa in the province of San Luis. Three hours later, Humberto Roggero, head of the Peronist bloc of the House of Deputies, announced that the Peronist Party would not be a part of a "government of national unity".

When he heard the Peronists' response, De la Rúa decided to resign from office.[8] The situation on Plaza de Mayo (right in front of the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace) was still too violent for De la Rúa to leave by car to his official residence at Olivos. Thus, the President's security detail decided to take him out of the Casa Rosada on board an Air Force helicopter. The iconic[citation needed] images of De la Rúa's "escape" by helicopter were broadcast throughout the country. The violence slowly abated. By the end of the day, 26 people had died, five of them in Buenos Aires.

With Álvarez having resigned a year earlier, the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Ramón Puerta, took over as Interim President until Congress could appoint a successor to De la Rúa.

Victims and criminal investigation

All told, 36 people were killed by police forces during the December riots, including 7 children. The largest incidence of violence was in the Plaza de Mayo of Buenos Aires, in what would become known in Argentina as the "Plaza de Mayo Massacre" (Spanish: Masacre de Plaza de Mayo), where 5 people were killed and 227 were injured. These crimes were investigated and brought to court. Seventeen people were charged with murder, attempted murder, including the then-Secretary of Security Enrique Mathov and the former head of the Argentinian Federal Police, Ruben Santos.

While various officials and police officers have been charged and sentenced to prison, as of 2016 the majority of cases pertaining to violence during the December riots have not moved forward.

Rodríguez Saá Administration

Adolfo Rodríguez Saá at his office in the Casa Rosada

According to the Acephaly Act, Puerta would only be President until the Legislative Assembly (a joint session of the Senate and the House of Deputies) convened and appointed a new President from either one member of Congress or a provincial governor to complete the resigning President's period.

The Peronist governors assembled at San Luis -arguably the most powerful men in Argentina at the period- were divided on whom to nominate. There were three "natural candidates", who were the governors of the three largest provinces: Carlos Ruckauf of Buenos Aires, José Manuel de la Sota of Córdoba and Carlos Reutemann of Santa Fe. As a temporary arrangement, the governors decided to nominate Adolfo Rodríguez Saá, Governor of San Luis. The Peronists' easy majority in both houses of Congress ensured that Rodríguez Saá was elected on 22 December.

While de la Rúa's term expired in 2003, some argued that only a president legitimated by popular vote would be able to bring Argentina out of the crisis. To that end, Rodríguez Saá was designated as interim president for only three months, until presidential elections were held on 3 March. If needed, a ballotage would be held on 17 March. The winner would take office on 5 April for the balance of de la Rúa's term.

However, Rodríguez Saá didn't seem at all satisfied with being a caretaker president. From the first moment, Rodríguez Saá embarked on ambitious projects aimed at giving him popularity. In his inaugural speech, he announced that Argentina would default on its foreign debt, an announcement received by rousing applause from the members of Congress. He then proceeded to announce the issuing of a "third currency" (alongside the peso and the dollar) to boost consumption. Later on, Rodríguez Saá announced that he would extradite every former military officer charged with human rights abuses during the Dirty War who was requested by foreign courts. Another measure was to stand down the state of siege.

There were also some unpopular designations to the Cabinet. The most notorious one was the appointment of former Mayor of Buenos Aires , arguably one of the most corrupt figures in Argentine politics. Rodríguez Saá also courted the powerful Peronist trade unions in a move that was recognized as an attempt to wrestle power from the other Peronist governors.

New riots and cacerolazos took place on Buenos Aires, with some protesters entering the Congress Palace and burning furniture. On 30 December, Rodríguez Saá called for a summit of Peronist governors at the Presidential holiday retreat of Chapadmalal, 19 kilometres (12 miles) south of Mar del Plata. Of the fourteen Peronist governors, only five attended. Realizing that he lacked support from his own party, Rodríguez Saá returned to his home province to announce his own resignation to the Presidency after barely a week in office.

Designation of Eduardo Duhalde

Former President Eduardo Duhalde (2002–2003)

Ramón Puerta refused to take over as interim President again, resigning as President Pro-Tempore of the Senate. With no President, Vice President or President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, the Presidency of Argentina was placed in the hands of the next-in-line: Eduardo Camaño, who was the Speaker of the House of Deputies.

Camaño was to take over until a new Legislative Assembly was convened. The Assembly convened on 1 January 2002, and debated extensively before designating Senator Eduardo Duhalde as President almost at midnight.

Duhalde was one of the top leaders of the Peronist Party. However, many had thought that Duhalde's political career was ruined after his defeat in the 1999 presidential elections. In an ironic twist of events, Duhalde was called to complete the term of the man who beat him in the elections, Fernando de la Rúa. This was not to be a provisional presidency, as Duhalde was designated to complete the interrupted term of De la Rúa until the 2003 presidential elections.

With regard to the economy Duhalde and his Economy Minister Jorge Remes Lenicov decided on an even more extreme freezing of the bank deposits, which was then coupled with the so-called pesificación ("peso-ification", a forced transformation of all dollar-denominated accounts into pesos at an arbitrary fixed exchange rate), and a regulated devaluation. The fixed exchange rate system was abandoned soon afterwards, which was followed by a large depreciation.

Social changes

During the unrest millions of people formed neighbourhood assemblies, occupied unused land and factories, created barter and mutual aid networks, implemented workers' self-management across hundreds of factories and rejected trade unionism and political parties.[9] Around a third of the population participated in these creations and these efforts have been repeatedly praised by anarchists.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Who are the dead of 2001?". Filede Cases. 20 December 2001.
  2. ^ Moreno, Federico (27 January 2006). "Four years after the Argentinazo". Socialist Worker. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  3. ^ Klein, Naomi (24 January 2003). "Out of the ordinary". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
  4. ^ Dennis, Rodgers (April 2005). "Unintentional democratisation? The Argentinazo and the politics of participatory budgeting in Buenos Aires, 2001-2004". eprints.lse.ac.uk. Retrieved 7 May 2018.
  5. ^ Sáenz, Robert; Cruz Bernal, Isidora (Spring 2003). "The driving forces behind the 'Argentinazo'". International Socialism Journal. 98 – via Socialist Review and International Socialism Journal Index.
  6. ^ Crisis grips Argentina BBC News, 20 December 2001
  7. ^ Argentina plunges into turmoil BBC News, 20 December 2001
  8. ^ "Argentine Leader, his Nation frayed, abruptly resigns" by Clifford Krauss. The New York Times, 21 December 2001
  9. ^ Whitney, Jennifer (2003). Que Se Vayan Todos: Argentina's Popular Rebellion. Montreal: Kersplebedeb. p. 56.
  10. ^ Gelderloos, Peter (2010). Anarchy Works.

General sources and further reading

15 December 2001

The Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens after 11 years and $27,000,000 spent to stabilize it, without fixing its famous lean.

Leaning Tower of Pisa
Torre Pendente di Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa SB.jpeg
Leaning Tower of Pisa in 2013
AffiliationCatholic Church
Ecclesiastical or organizational statusActive
LocationPisa, Italy
Geographic coordinates43°43′23″N 10°23′47″E / 43.72306°N 10.39639°E / 43.72306; 10.39639Coordinates: 43°43′23″N 10°23′47″E / 43.72306°N 10.39639°E / 43.72306; 10.39639
Architect(s)Bonanno Pisano
Height (max)55.86 metres (183.3 ft)
Part ofPiazza del Duomo, Pisa
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iv, vi
Inscription1987 (11th session)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (Italian: torre pendente di Pisa) or simply the Tower of Pisa (torre di Pisa [ˈtorre di ˈpiːza; ˈpiːsa][1]) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation. The tower is situated behind the Pisa Cathedral and is the third-oldest structure in the city's Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo), after the cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry.

The height of the tower is 55.86 metres (183.27 feet) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 metres (185.93 feet) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m (8 ft 0.06 in). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons (16,000 short tons).[2] The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase.

The tower began to lean during construction in the 12th century, due to soft ground which could not properly support the structure's weight, and it worsened through the completion of construction in the 14th century. By 1990, the tilt had reached 512 degrees.[3][4][5] The structure was stabilized by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.[6]


There has been controversy about the real identity of the architect of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. For many years, the design was attributed to Guglielmo and Bonanno Pisano,[7] a well-known 12th-century resident artist of Pisa, known for his bronze casting, particularly in the Pisa Duomo. Pisano left Pisa in 1185 for Monreale, Sicily, only to come back and die in his home town. A piece of cast bearing his name was discovered at the foot of the tower in 1820, but this may be related to the bronze door in the façade of the cathedral that was destroyed in 1595. A 2001 study seems to indicate Diotisalvi was the original architect, due to the time of construction and affinity with other Diotisalvi works, notably the bell tower of San Nicola and the Baptistery, both in Pisa.[8][page needed]


Construction of the tower occurred in three stages over 199 years. On 5 January 1172, Donna Berta di Bernardo, a widow and resident of the house of dell'Opera di Santa Maria, bequeathed sixty soldi to the Opera Campanilis petrarum Sancte Marie. The sum was then used toward the purchase of a few stones which still form the base of the bell tower.[9] On 9 August 1173, the foundations of the tower were laid.[10] Work on the ground floor of the white marble campanile began on 14 August of the same year during a period of military success and prosperity. This ground floor is a blind arcade articulated by engaged columns with classical Corinthian capitals.[citation needed] Nearly four centuries later Giorgio Vasari wrote: "Guglielmo, according to what is being said, in the year 1174, together with sculptor Bonanno, laid the foundations of the bell tower of the cathedral in Pisa".[11]

The tower began to sink after construction had progressed to the second floor in 1178. This was due to a mere three-metre foundation, set in weak, unstable subsoil, a design that was flawed from the beginning. Construction was subsequently halted for almost a century, as the Republic of Pisa was almost continually engaged in battles with Genoa, Lucca, and Florence. This allowed time for the underlying soil to settle. Otherwise, the tower would almost certainly have toppled.[12] On 27 December 1233, the worker Benenato, son of Gerardo Bottici, oversaw the continuation of the tower's construction.[13]

On 23 February 1260, Guido Speziale, son of Giovanni Pisano, was elected to oversee the building of the tower.[14] On 12 April 1264, the master builder , architect of the Camposanto, and 23 workers went to the mountains close to Pisa to cut marble. The cut stones were given to Rainaldo Speziale, worker of St. Francesco.[15] In 1272, construction resumed under Di Simone. In an effort to compensate for the tilt, the engineers built upper floors with one side taller than the other. Because of this, the tower is curved.[16] Construction was halted again in 1284 when the Pisans were defeated by the Genoans in the Battle of Meloria.[10][17]

The seventh floor was completed in 1319.[18] The bell-chamber was finally added in 1372. It was built by , who succeeded in harmonizing the Gothic elements of the belfry with the Romanesque style of the tower.[19][20] There are seven bells, one for each note of the musical major scale. The largest one was installed in 1655.[12]

History following construction

Between 1589 and 1592,[21] Galileo Galilei, who lived in Pisa at the time, is said to have dropped two cannonballs of different masses from the tower to demonstrate that their speed of descent was independent of their mass, in keeping with the law of free fall. The primary source for this is the biography Racconto istorico della vita di Galileo Galilei (Historical Account of the Life of Galileo Galilei), written by Galileo's pupil and secretary Vincenzo Viviani in 1654, but only published in 1717, long after his death.[22][23]

During World War II, the Allies suspected that the Germans were using the tower as an observation post. Leon Weckstein, a U.S. Army sergeant sent to confirm the presence of German troops in the tower, was impressed by the beauty of the cathedral and its campanile, and thus refrained from ordering an artillery strike, sparing it from destruction.[24][page needed][25]

Numerous efforts have been made to restore the tower to a vertical orientation or at least keep it from falling over. Most of these efforts failed; some worsened the tilt. On 27 February 1964, the government of Italy requested aid in preventing the tower from toppling. It was, however, considered important to retain the current tilt, due to the role that this element played in promoting the tourism industry of Pisa.[26]

Starting in 1993, 870 tonnes of lead counterweights were added, which straightened the tower slightly.[27]

The tower and the neighbouring cathedral, baptistery, and cemetery are included in the Piazza del Duomo UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was declared in 1987.[28]

The tower was closed to the public on 7 January 1990,[29] after more than two decades of stabilisation studies and spurred by the abrupt collapse of the Civic Tower of Pavia in 1989.[30][31] The bells were removed to relieve some weight, and cables were cinched around the third level and anchored several hundred meters away. Apartments and houses in the path of a potential fall of the tower were vacated for safety. The selected method for preventing the collapse of the tower was to slightly reduce its tilt to a safer angle by soil removal 38 cubic metres (1,342 cubic feet) from underneath the raised end. The tower's tilt was reduced by 45 centimetres (17.7 inches), returning to its 1838 position. After a decade of corrective reconstruction and stabilization efforts, the tower was reopened to the public on 15 December 2001, and was declared stable for at least another 300 years.[27] In total, 70 metric tons (77 short tons) of soil were removed.[32]

After a phase (1990–2001) of structural strengthening,[33] the tower has been undergoing gradual surface restoration to repair visible damage, mostly corrosion and blackening. These are particularly pronounced due to the tower's age and its exposure to wind and rain.[34] In May 2008, engineers announced that the tower had been stabilized such that it had stopped moving for the first time in its history. They stated that it would be stable for at least 200 years.[32]

Surviving earthquakes

At least four strong earthquakes hit the region since 1280, but the apparently vulnerable Tower survived. The reason was not understood until a research group of 16 engineers investigated. The researchers concluded that the Tower was able to withstand the tremors because of dynamic soil-structure interaction (DSSI): the height and stiffness of the Tower, together with the softness of the foundation soil, influences the vibrational characteristics of the structure in such a way that the Tower does not resonate with earthquake ground motion. The same soft soil that caused the leaning and brought the Tower to the verge of collapse helped it survive.[36]

Technical information

An elevation image of the Leaning Tower of Pisa cut with laser scan data from a University of Ferrara/CyArk research partnership, with source image accurate down to 5 mm (0.2 in).
  • Elevation of Piazza del Duomo: about 2 metres (6 feet, DMS)
  • Height from the ground floor: 55.863 metres (183 ft 3.3 in),[37] 8 stories[38]
  • Height from the foundation floor: 58.36 m (191 ft 5.64 in)[39]
  • Outer diameter of base: 15.484 metres (50 ft 9.6 in)[37]
  • Inner diameter of base: 7.368 metres (24 ft 2.1 in)[37]
  • Angle of slant: 3.97 degrees[40] or 3.9 metres (12 ft 10 in) from the vertical[41]
  • Weight: 14,700 metric tons (16,200 short tons)[42]
  • Thickness of walls at the base: 2.44 metres (8 ft 0 in)
  • Total number of bells: 7, tuned to musical scale,[43] clockwise:[citation needed]
    • 1st bell: L'Assunta, cast in 1654 by , weight 3,620 kg (7,981 lb)
    • 2nd bell: Il Crocifisso, cast in 1572 by , weight 2,462 kg (5,428 lb)
    • 3rd bell: San Ranieri, cast in 1719–1721 by , weight 1,448 kg (3,192 lb)
    • 4th bell: La Terza (1st small one), cast in 1473, weight 300 kg (661 lb)
    • 5th bell: La Pasquereccia or La Giustizia, cast in 1262[44] by , weight 1,014 kg (2,235 lb)
    • 6th bell: Il Vespruccio (2nd small one), cast in the 14th century and again in 1501 by , weight 1,000 kg (2,205 lb)
    • 7th bell: Dal Pozzo, cast in 1606 and again in 2004, weight 652 kg (1,437 lb)[45]
  • Number of steps to the top: 296[46]

About the 5th bell: The name Pasquareccia comes from Easter, because it used to ring on Easter day. However, this bell is older than the bell-chamber itself, and comes from the tower Vergata in Palazzo Pretorio in Pisa, where it was called La Giustizia (The Justice). The bell was tolled to announce executions of criminals and traitors, including Count Ugolino in 1289.[47] A new bell was installed in the bell tower at the end of the 18th century to replace the broken Pasquareccia.[citation needed]

The circular shape and great height of the campanile were unusual for their time, and the crowning belfry is stylistically distinct from the rest of the construction. This belfry incorporates a 14 cm (5.5 in) correction for the inclined axis below. The siting of the campanile within the Piazza del Duomo diverges from the axial alignment of the cathedral and baptistery of the Piazza del Duomo.[citation needed]

Guinness World Records

Two German churches have challenged the tower's status as the world's most lop-sided building: the 15th-century square Leaning Tower of Suurhusen and the 14th-century bell tower in the town of Bad Frankenhausen.[48] Guinness World Records measured the Pisa and Suurhusen towers, finding the former's tilt to be 3.97 degrees.[40] In June 2010, Guinness World Records certified the Capital Gate building in Abu Dhabi, UAE as the "World's Furthest Leaning Man-made Tower";[49] it has an 18-degree slope, almost five times more than the Pisa Tower, but was deliberately engineered to slant. The Leaning Tower of Wanaka in New Zealand, also deliberately built, leans at 53 degrees to the ground.[50]


See also


  1. ^ "DiPI Online". Dizionario di Pronuncia Italiana (in Italian). Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  2. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa Facts". Leaning Tower of Pisa. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  3. ^ "Europe | Saving the Leaning Tower". BBC News. 15 December 2001. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  4. ^ "Tower of Pisa". Archidose.org. 17 June 2001. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  5. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa (tower, Pisa, Italy) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 9 May 2009.
  6. ^ "Leaning tower of Pisa loses crooked crown". Irish News. Retrieved 10 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Endex.com". www.endex.com. Archived from the original on 13 August 2007.
  8. ^ Pierotti, Piero. (2001). Deotisalvi – L'architetto pisano del secolo d'oro. Pisa: Pacini Editore
  9. ^ Capitular Record Offices of Pisa, parchment n. 248
  10. ^ a b Potts, David M.; Zdravkovic, Lidija; Zdravković, Lidija (2001). Finite Element Analysis in Geotechnical Engineering: Application. Thomas Telford. p. 254. ISBN 9780727727831.
  11. ^ Vasari, Giorgio (1878). Le opere di Giorgio Vasari: Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architettori (in Italian). G.C. Sansoni. pp. 274. OCLC 15220635. Guglielmo, secondo che si dice, l'anno 1174, insieme con Bonanno scultore, fondò in Pisa il campanile del Duomo, dove sono alcune parole
  12. ^ a b "Fall of the Leaning Tower – History of Interventions". NOVA Online (PBS). 1999. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  13. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Opera della Primaziale, 27 December 1234
  14. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Opera della Primaziale, 23 February 1260
  15. ^ Public Record Offices of Pisa, Roncioni, 12 April 1265.
  16. ^ McLain, Bill (1999). Do Fish Drink Water?. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc. pp. 291–292. ISBN 0-688-16512-5.
  17. ^ Touring club italiano (2005). Authentic Tuscany. Touring Editore. p. 64. ISBN 9788836532971.
  18. ^ Roth, Leland M. (13 March 2018). Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 9780429975219.
  19. ^ G. Barsali (1999), Pisa. History and masterpieces, Bonechi, p. 18, ISBN 8872041880
  20. ^ Giorgio Vasari, Jean Paul Richter (1855), Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, H. G. Bohn, p. 153
  21. ^ Some contemporary sources speculate about the exact date; e.g. Rachel Hilliam gives 1591 (Galileo Galilei: Father of Modern Science, The Rosen Publishing Group, 2005, p. 101).
  22. ^ "Sci Tech : Science history: setting the record straight". The Hindu. 30 June 2005. Archived from the original on 2 November 2005. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  23. ^ Vincenzo Viviani on museo galileo
  24. ^ Shrady, Nicholas (2003): Tilt: a skewed history of the Tower of Pisa
  25. ^ "Why I spared the Leaning Tower of Pisa". The Guardian. 12 January 2000. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  26. ^ "Securing the Lean In Tower of Pisa". The New York Times. 1 November 1987.
  27. ^ a b "Tipping the Balance". TIME Magazine. 25 June 2001. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  28. ^ "Piazza del Duomo, Pisa". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  29. ^ "BBC on this day: 1990: Leaning Tower of Pisa closed to public". BBC News. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  30. ^ Hofman, Paul (30 July 1989). "Italy's Endangered Treasures". New York Times. New York. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  31. ^ Montalbo, William D (18 March 1989). "900-Year-Old Bell Tower Collapses in Italy; Three Killed". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  32. ^ a b Duff, Mark (28 May 2008). "Europe | Pisa's leaning tower 'stabilised'". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  33. ^ A profile of an engineer employed to straighten the tower Archived 27 January 2012 at the Wayback Machine Ingenia, March 2005
  34. ^ "Restoration work is mentioned at the official website of the square". Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 14 May 2007.
  35. ^ Tom (6 May 2015). "Leaning Tower of Pisa in the 1890s". Cool Old Photos. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  36. ^ "500-year-old Leaning Tower of Pisa mystery unveiled by engineers". ScienceDaily. 9 May 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  37. ^ a b c "2051?". The Michigan Architect and Engineer. 27: 17. 1952.
  38. ^ Burland, J.B. (2008). "Stabilising the Leaning Tower of Pisa: the Evolution of Geotechnical Solutions". Trans. Newcomen Soc. 78 (2): 174. doi:10.1179/175035208X317657. ISSN 0372-0187. S2CID 110178919.
  39. ^ Valdes, Giuliano (1994). Art and History of Pisa. Casa Editrice Bonechi. p. 44. ISBN 9788880290247.
  40. ^ a b "German steeple beats Leaning Tower of Pisa into Guinness book". Trend News Agency. AFP. 9 November 2007. Archived from the original on 4 May 2009.
  41. ^ tan(3.97 degrees) * (55.86m + 56.70m)/2 = 3.9m
  42. ^ Strom, Steven; Nathan, Kurt; Woland, Jake; Lamm, David (28 September 2009). Site Engineering for Landscape Architects. John Wiley and Sons. p. 124. ISBN 9780471695493.
  43. ^ Black, William Harman (1920). The Real Europe Pocket Guide-book: Number 10 of the 'Black's Blue Books'. Brentanos. pp. 360. OCLC 316943604.
  44. ^ Black, Charles Bertram (1898). The Riviera, Or The Coast from Marseilles to Leghorn: Including the Interior Towns of Carrara, Lucca, Pisa and Pistoia. A. & C. Black. pp. 148. OCLC 18806463.
  45. ^ "Leaning Tower of Pisa: 1920s Photo of Dal Pozzo". www.endex.com. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  46. ^ Davies, Andrew (2005). The Children's Visual World Atlas. Sydney, Australia: The Fog Press. ISBN 1-74089-317-4.
  47. ^ "Torre pendente" (in Italian). Lucca turismo. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  48. ^ Sunday Telegraph no. 2,406, 22 July 2007
  49. ^ "Not so fast, Pisa! UAE lays claim to world's furthest leaning tower". CNN news. 7 June 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  50. ^ 'Leaning and tumbling towers' on Puzzling World website, viewed 30 July 2011

External links

2 December 2001

Enron files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Enron Corporation
TypePublic company
FoundedOmaha, Nebraska, U.S. (1985 (1985))
FounderKenneth Lay
DefunctDecember 2001 (2001-12)
United States
Key people
DivisionsEnron Energy Services

The Enron scandal was an accounting scandal involving Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston, Texas. Upon being publicized in October 2001, the company declared bankruptcy and its accounting firm, Arthur Andersen – then one of the five largest audit and accountancy partnerships in the world – was effectively dissolved. In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in U.S. history at that time, Enron was cited as the biggest audit failure.[1]:61

Enron was formed in 1985 by Kenneth Lay after merging Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth. Several years later, when Jeffrey Skilling was hired, Lay developed a staff of executives that – by the use of accounting loopholes, special purpose entities, and poor financial reporting – were able to hide billions of dollars in debt from failed deals and projects. Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow and other executives misled Enron's board of directors and audit committee on high-risk accounting practices and pressured Arthur Andersen to ignore the issues.

Enron shareholders filed a $40 billion lawsuit after the company's stock price, which achieved a high of US$90.75 per share in mid-2000, plummeted to less than $1 by the end of November 2001.[2] The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began an investigation, and rival Houston competitor Dynegy offered to purchase the company at a very low price. The deal failed, and on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Enron's $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history until the WorldCom scandal the following year.[3]

Many executives at Enron were indicted for a variety of charges and some were later sentenced to prison. Arthur Andersen was found guilty of illegally destroying documents relevant to the SEC investigation, which voided its license to audit public companies and effectively closed the firm. By the time the ruling was overturned at the U.S. Supreme Court, Arthur Andersen had lost the majority of its customers and had ceased operating. Enron employees and shareholders received limited returns in lawsuits, despite losing billions in pensions and stock prices. The executives all were charged with a felony after the allegations.

As a consequence of the scandal, new regulations and legislation were enacted to expand the accuracy of financial reporting for public companies.[4] One piece of legislation, the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, increased penalties for destroying, altering, or fabricating records in federal investigations or for attempting to defraud shareholders.[5] The act also increased the accountability of auditing firms to remain unbiased and independent of their clients.[4]

Rise of Enron

Kenneth Lay in a July 2004 mugshot

In 1985, Kenneth Lay merged the natural gas pipeline companies of Houston Natural Gas and InterNorth to form Enron.[6]:3 In the early 1990s, he helped to initiate the selling of electricity at market prices and, soon after, Congress approved legislation deregulating the sale of natural gas. The resulting markets made it possible for traders such as Enron to sell energy at higher prices, thereby significantly increasing its revenue.[7] After producers and local governments decried the resultant price volatility and asked for increased regulation, strong lobbying on the part of Enron and others prevented such regulation.[7][8]

As Enron became the largest seller of natural gas in North America by 1992, its trading of gas contracts earned $122 million (before interest and taxes), the second largest contributor to the company's net income. The November 1999 creation of the EnronOnline trading website allowed the company to better manage its contracts trading business.[6]:7

In an attempt to achieve further growth, Enron pursued a diversification strategy. The company owned and operated a variety of assets including gas pipelines, electricity plants, paper plants, water plants, and broadband services across the globe. Enron also gained additional revenue by trading contracts for the same array of products and services with which it was involved.[6]:5 This included setting up power generation plants in developing countries and emerging markets including the Philippines (Subic Bay), Indonesia and India (Dabhol).[9]

Enron's stock increased from the start of the 1990s until year-end 1998 by 311%, only modestly higher than the average rate of growth in the Standard & Poor 500 index.[6]:1 However, the stock increased by 56% in 1999 and a further 87% in 2000, compared to a 20% increase and a 10% decrease for the index during the same years. By December 31, 2000, Enron's stock was priced at $83.13 and its market capitalization exceeded $60 billion, 70 times earnings and six times book value, an indication of the stock market's high expectations about its future prospects. In addition, Enron was rated the most innovative large company in America in Fortune's Most Admired Companies survey.[6]:1

Causes of downfall

The subject of this accounting scandal had published a manual of ethics earlier

Enron's complex financial statements were confusing to shareholders and analysts.[1]:6[10] In addition, its complex business model and unethical practices required that the company use accounting limitations to misrepresent earnings and modify the balance sheet to indicate favorable performance.[6]:9 Further, some speculative business ventures proved disastrous.

The combination of these issues later resulted in the bankruptcy of Enron, and the majority of them were perpetuated by the indirect knowledge or direct actions of Lay, Skilling, Andrew Fastow, and other executives such as Rebecca Mark. Lay served as the chairman of Enron in its last few years, and approved of the actions of Skilling and Fastow, although he did not always inquire about the details. Skilling constantly focused on meeting Wall Street expectations, advocated the use of mark-to-market accounting (accounting based on market value, which was then inflated) and pressured Enron executives to find new ways to hide its debt. Fastow and other executives "created off-balance-sheet vehicles, complex financing structures, and deals so bewildering that few people could understand them."[11]:132–133

Revenue recognition

Enron and other energy suppliers earned profits by providing services such as wholesale trading and risk management in addition to building and maintaining electric power plants, natural gas pipelines, storage, and processing facilities.[12] When accepting the risk of buying and selling products, merchants are allowed to report the selling price as revenues and the products' costs as cost of goods sold. In contrast, an "agent" provides a service to the customer, but does not take the same risks as merchants for buying and selling. Service providers, when classified as agents, may report trading and brokerage fees as revenue, although not for the full value of the transaction.[13]:101–103

Although trading companies such as Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch used the conventional "agent model" for reporting revenue (where only the trading or brokerage fee would be reported as revenue), Enron instead elected to report the entire value of each of its trades as revenue. This "merchant model" was considered much more aggressive in the accounting interpretation than the agent model.[13]:102 Enron's method of reporting inflated trading revenue was later adopted by other companies in the energy trading industry in an attempt to stay competitive with the company's large increase in revenue. Other energy companies such as Duke Energy, Reliant Energy, and Dynegy joined Enron in the largest 50 of the revenue-based Fortune 500 owing mainly to their adoption of the same trading revenue accounting as Enron.[13]:105

Between 1996 and 2000, Enron's revenues increased by more than 750%, rising from $13.3 billion in 1996 to $100.7 billion in 2000. This expansion of 65% per year was extraordinary in any industry, including the energy industry, which typically considered growth of 2–3% per year to be respectable. For just the first nine months of 2001, Enron reported $138.7 billion in revenues, placing the company at the sixth position on the Fortune Global 500.[13]:97–100

Enron also used creative accounting tricks and purposefully misclassified loan transactions as sales close to quarterly reporting deadlines, similar to the Lehman Brothers Repo 105 scheme in the 2008 financial crisis, or the currency swap concealment of Greek debt by Goldman Sachs. In Enron's case, Merrill Lynch bought Nigerian barges with an alleged buyback guarantee by Enron shortly before the earnings deadline. According to the government, Enron misreported a bridge loan as a true sale, then bought back the barges a few months later. Merrill Lynch executives were tried and in November 2004 convicted for aiding Enron in fraudulent accounting activities.[14] These charges were thrown out on appeal in 2006, after the Merrill Lynch executives had spent nearly a year in prison, with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans calling the conspiracy and wire fraud charges "flawed." Expert observers said that the reversal was highly unusual for the 5th Circuit, commenting that the conviction must have had serious issues in order to be overturned.[15] The Justice Department decided not to retry the case after the reversal of the verdict.[16][17]

Mark-to-market accounting

In Enron's natural gas business, the accounting had been fairly straightforward: in each time period, the company listed actual costs of supplying the gas and actual revenues received from selling it. However, when Skilling joined Enron, he demanded that the trading business adopt mark-to-market accounting, claiming that it would represent "true economic value."[11]:39–42 Enron became the first nonfinancial company to use the method to account for its complex long-term contracts.[18] Mark-to-market accounting requires that once a long-term contract has been signed, income is estimated as the present value of net future cash flow. Often, the viability of these contracts and their related costs were difficult to estimate.[6]:10 Owing to the large discrepancies between reported profits and cash, investors were typically given false or misleading reports. Under this method, income from projects could be recorded, although the firm might never have received the money, with this income increasing financial earnings on the books. However, because in future years the profits could not be included, new and additional income had to be included from more projects to develop additional growth to appease investors.[11]:39–42 As one Enron competitor stated, "If you accelerate your income, then you have to keep doing more and more deals to show the same or rising income."[18] Despite potential pitfalls, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the accounting method for Enron in its trading of natural gas futures contracts on January 30, 1992.[11]:39–42 However, Enron later expanded its use to other areas in the company to help it meet Wall Street projections.[11]:127

For one contract, in July 2000, Enron and Blockbuster Video signed a 20-year agreement to introduce on-demand entertainment to various U.S. cities by year's end. After several pilot projects, Enron claimed estimated profits of more than $110 million from the deal, even though analysts questioned the technical viability and market demand of the service.[6]:10 When the network failed to work, Blockbuster withdrew from the contract. Enron continued to claim future profits, even though the deal resulted in a loss.[19]

Special purpose entities

Enron used special purpose entities—limited partnerships or companies created to fulfill a temporary or specific purpose to fund or manage risks associated with specific assets. The company elected to disclose minimal details on its use of "special purpose entities".[6]:11 These shell companies were created by a sponsor, but funded by independent equity investors and debt financing. For financial reporting purposes, a series of rules dictate whether a special purpose entity is a separate entity from the sponsor. In total, by 2001, Enron had used hundreds of special purpose entities to hide its debt.[6]:10 The company used a number of special purpose entities, such as partnerships in its Thomas and Condor tax shelters, financial asset securitization investment trusts (FASITs) in the Apache deal, real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs) in the Steele deal, and REMICs and real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the Cochise deal.[20]

The special purpose entities were Tobashi schemes used for more than just circumventing accounting conventions. As a result of one violation, Enron's balance sheet understated its liabilities and overstated its equity, and its earnings were overstated.[6]:11 Enron disclosed to its shareholders that it had hedged downside risk in its own illiquid investments using special purpose entities. However, investors were oblivious to the fact that the special purpose entities were actually using the company's own stock and financial guarantees to finance these hedges. This prevented Enron from being protected from the downside risk.[6]:11

JEDI and Chewco

In 1993, Enron established a joint venture in energy investments with CalPERS, the California state pension fund, called the Joint Energy Development Investments (JEDI).[11]:67 In 1997, Skilling, serving as Enron's chief operating officer (COO), asked CalPERS to join Enron in a separate investment. CalPERS was interested in the idea, but only if it could be terminated as a partner in JEDI.[1]:30 However, Enron did not want to show any debt from assuming CalPERS' stake in JEDI on its balance sheet. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Fastow developed the special purpose entity Chewco Investments, a limited partnership (L.P.) which raised debt guaranteed by Enron and was used to acquire CalPERS's joint venture stake for $383 million.[6]:11 Because of Fastow's organization of Chewco, JEDI's losses were kept off of Enron's balance sheet.

In autumn 2001, CalPERS and Enron's arrangement was discovered, which required the discontinuation of Enron's prior accounting method for Chewco and JEDI. This disqualification revealed that Enron's reported earnings from 1997 to mid-2001 would need to be reduced by $405 million and that the company's indebtedness would increase by $628 million.[1]:31


Whitewing was the name of a special purpose entity used as a financing method by Enron.[21] In December 1997, with funding of $579 million provided by Enron and $500 million by an outside investor, Whitewing Associates L.P. was formed. Two years later, the entity's arrangement was changed so that it would no longer be consolidated with Enron and be counted on the company's balance sheet. Whitewing was used to purchase Enron assets, including stakes in power plants, pipelines, stocks, and other investments.[22] Between 1999 and 2001, Whitewing bought assets from Enron worth $2 billion, using Enron stock as collateral. Although the transactions were approved by the Enron board, the asset transfers were not true sales and should have been treated instead as loans.[23]

LJM and Raptors

In 1999, Fastow formulated two limited partnerships: LJM Cayman. L.P. (LJM1) and LJM2 Co-Investment L.P. (LJM2), for the purpose of buying Enron's poorly performing stocks and stakes to improve its financial statements. LJM 1 and 2 were created solely to serve as the outside equity investor needed for the special purpose entities that were being used by Enron.[1]:31 Fastow had to go before the board of directors to receive an exemption from Enron's code of ethics (as he had the title of CFO) in order to manage the companies.[11]:193, 197 The two partnerships were funded with around $390 million provided by Wachovia, J.P. Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse First Boston, Citigroup, and other investors. Merrill Lynch, which marketed the equity, also contributed $22 million to fund the entities.[1]:31

Enron transferred to "Raptor I-IV", four LJM-related special purpose entities named after the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, more than "$1.2 billion in assets, including millions of shares of Enron common stock and long term rights to purchase millions more shares, plus $150 million of Enron notes payable" as disclosed in the company's financial statement footnotes.[24][1]:33[25] The special purpose entities had been used to pay for all of this using the entities' debt instruments. The footnotes also declared that the instruments' face amount totaled $1.5 billion, and the entities notional amount of $2.1 billion had been used to enter into derivative contracts with Enron.[1]:33

Enron capitalized the Raptors, and, in a manner similar to the accounting employed when a company issues stock at a public offering, then booked the notes payable issued as assets on its balance sheet while increasing the shareholders' equity for the same amount.[1]:38 This treatment later became an issue for Enron and its auditor Arthur Andersen, as removing it from the balance sheet resulted in a $1.2 billion decrease in net shareholders' equity.[26]

Eventually the derivative contracts worth $2.1 billion lost significant value. Swaps were established at the time the stock price achieved its maximum. During the ensuing year, the value of the portfolio under the swaps fell by $1.1 billion as the stock prices decreased (the loss of value meant that the special purpose entities technically now owed Enron $1.1 billion by the contracts). Enron, using its mark-to-market accounting method, claimed a $500 million gain on the swap contracts in its 2000 annual report. The gain was responsible for offsetting its stock portfolio losses and was attributed to nearly a third of Enron's earnings for 2000 (before it was properly restated in 2001).[1]:39

Corporate governance

On paper, Enron had a model board of directors comprising predominantly outsiders with significant ownership stakes and a talented audit committee. In its 2000 review of best corporate boards, Chief Executive included Enron among its five best boards.[27]:21 Even with its complex corporate governance and network of intermediaries, Enron was still able to "attract large sums of capital to fund a questionable business model, conceal its true performance through a series of accounting and financing maneuvers, and hype its stock to unsustainable levels."[6]:4

Executive compensation

Although Enron's compensation and performance management system was designed to retain and reward its most valuable employees, the system contributed to a dysfunctional corporate culture that became obsessed with short-term earnings to maximize bonuses. Employees constantly tried to start deals, often disregarding the quality of cash flow or profits, in order to get a better rating for their performance review. Additionally, accounting results were recorded as soon as possible to keep up with the company's stock price. This practice helped ensure deal-makers and executives received large cash bonuses and stock options.[13]:112

Enron was constantly emphasizing its stock price. Management was compensated extensively using stock options, similar to other U.S. companies. This policy of stock option awards caused management to create expectations of rapid growth in efforts to give the appearance of reported earnings to meet Wall Street's expectations.[28] Stock tickers was located in lobbies, elevators, and on company computers.[11]:187 At budget meetings, Skilling would develop target earnings by asking, "What earnings do you need to keep our stock price up?" and that number would be used, even if it was not feasible.[11]:127 On December 31, 2000, Enron had 96 million shares outstanding as stock option plans (approximately 13% of common shares outstanding). Enron's proxy statement stated that, within three years, these awards were expected to be exercised.[6]:13 Using Enron's January 2001 stock price of $83.13 and the directors' beneficial ownership reported in the 2001 proxy, the value of director stock ownership was $659 million for Lay, and $174 million for Skilling.[27]:21

Skilling believed that if Enron employees were constantly worried about cost, it would hinder original thinking.[11]:119 As a result, extravagant spending was rampant throughout the company, especially among the executives. Employees had large expense accounts and many executives were paid sometimes twice as much as competitors.[11]:401 In 1998, the top 200 highest-paid employees received $193 million from salaries, bonuses, and stock. Two years later, the figure jumped to $1.4 billion.[11]:241

Risk management

Before its demise, Enron was lauded for its sophisticated financial risk management tools.[29] Risk management was crucial to Enron not only because of its regulatory environment, but also because of its business plan. Enron established long-term fixed commitments which needed to be hedged to prepare for the invariable fluctuation of future energy prices.[30]:1171 Enron's downfall was attributed to its reckless use of derivatives and special purpose entities. By hedging its risks with special purpose entities which it owned, Enron retained the risks associated with the transactions. This arrangement had Enron implementing hedges with itself.[27]:17

Enron's aggressive accounting practices were not hidden from the board of directors, as later learned by a Senate subcommittee. The board was informed of the rationale for using the Whitewing, LJM, and Raptor transactions, and after approving them, received status updates on the entities' operations. Although not all of Enron's widespread improper accounting practices were revealed to the board, the practices were dependent on board decisions.[30]:1170 Even though Enron extensively relied on derivatives for its business, the company's finance committee and board did not have enough experience with derivatives to understand what they were being told. The Senate subcommittee argued that had there been a detailed understanding of how the derivatives were organized, the board would have prevented their use.[30]:1175

Financial audit

Enron's accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, was accused of applying reckless standards in its audits because of a conflict of interest over the significant consulting fees generated by Enron. During 2000, Andersen earned $25 million in audit fees and $27 million in consulting fees (this amount accounted for roughly 27% of the audit fees of public clients for Andersen's Houston office). The auditor's methods were questioned as either being completed solely to receive its annual fees or for its lack of expertise in properly reviewing Enron's revenue recognition, special entities, derivatives, and other accounting practices.[6]:15

Enron hired numerous Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) as well as accountants who had worked on developing accounting rules with the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). The accountants searched for new ways to save the company money, including capitalizing on loopholes found in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the accounting industry's standards. One Enron accountant revealed "We tried to aggressively use the literature [GAAP] to our advantage. All the rules create all these opportunities. We got to where we did because we exploited that weakness."[11]:142

Andersen's auditors were pressured by Enron's management to defer recognizing the charges from the special purpose entities as its credit risks became known. Since the entities would never return a profit, accounting guidelines required that Enron should take a write-off, where the value of the entity was removed from the balance sheet at a loss. To pressure Andersen into meeting earnings expectations, Enron would occasionally allow accounting companies Ernst & Young or PricewaterhouseCoopers to complete accounting tasks to create the illusion of hiring a new company to replace Andersen.[11]:148 Although Andersen was equipped with internal controls to protect against conflicted incentives of local partners, it failed to prevent conflict of interest. In one case, Andersen's Houston office, which performed the Enron audit, was able to overrule any critical reviews of Enron's accounting decisions by Andersen's Chicago partner. In addition, after news of SEC investigations of Enron were made public, Andersen would later shred several tons of relevant documents and delete nearly 30,000 e-mails and computer files, leading to accusations of a cover-up.[6]:15[31][11]:383

Revelations concerning Andersen's overall performance led to the break-up of the firm, and to the following assessment by the Powers Committee (appointed by Enron's board to look into the firm's accounting in October 2001): "The evidence available to us suggests that Andersen did not fulfill its professional responsibilities in connection with its audits of Enron's financial statements, or its obligation to bring to the attention of Enron's Board (or the Audit and Compliance Committee) concerns about Enron's internal contracts over the related-party transactions".[32]

Audit committee

Corporate audit committees usually meet just a few times during the year, and their members typically have only modest experience with accounting and finance. Enron's audit committee had more expertise than many others. It included:[33]

Enron's audit committee was later criticized for its brief meetings that would cover large amounts of material. In one meeting on February 12, 2001, the committee met for an hour and a half. Enron's audit committee did not have the technical knowledge to question the auditors properly on accounting issues related to the company's special purpose entities. The committee was also unable to question the company's management due to pressures on the committee.[6]:14 The United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Governmental Affairs' report accused the board members of allowing conflicts of interest to impede their duties as monitoring the company's accounting practices. When Enron's scandal became public, the audit committee's conflicts of interest were regarded with suspicion.[34]

Ethical and political analyses

Commentators attributed the mismanagement behind Enron's fall to a variety of ethical and political-economic causes. Ethical explanations centered on executive greed and hubris, a lack of corporate social responsibility, situation ethics, and get-it-done business pragmatism.[35][36][37][38][39] Political-economic explanations cited post-1970s deregulation, and inadequate staff and funding for regulatory oversight.[40][41] A more libertarian analysis maintained that Enron's collapse resulted from the company's reliance on political lobbying, rent-seeking, and the gaming of regulations.[42]

Other accounting issues

Enron made a habit of booking costs of cancelled projects as assets, with the rationale that no official letter had stated that the project was cancelled. This method was known as "the snowball", and although it was initially dictated that such practices be used only for projects worth less than $90 million, it was later increased to $200 million.[11]:77

In 1998, when analysts were given a tour of the Enron Energy Services office, they were impressed with how the employees were working so vigorously. In reality, Skilling had moved other employees to the office from other departments (instructing them to pretend to work hard) to create the appearance that the division was larger than it was.[11]:179–180 This ruse was used several times to fool analysts about the progress of different areas of Enron to help improve the stock price.[citation needed]

Speculative business ventures

Enron division Azurix, slated for an IPO, initially planned to bid between $321 million and $353 million for the rights to operate water system services for areas around Buenos Aires. This was at the high end of what Enron's Risk Assessment and Control Group advised. But as pressure to outbid all others and win the deal grew more intense with the approaching IPO, the Azurix executives decided to up their bid. They eventually bid $438.6, which turned out to be about twice as much as the next highest sealed bid. But when Enron executives arrived at the Argentine facilities, they found them in a shambles with all of the customer records destroyed.[43]

Timeline of downfall

At the beginning of 2001, the Enron Corporation, the world's dominant energy trader, appeared unstoppable. The company's decade-long effort to persuade lawmakers to deregulate electricity markets had succeeded from California to New York. Its ties to the Bush administration assured that its views would be heard in Washington. Its sales, profits and stock were soaring.

—A. Berenson and R. A. Oppel, Jr. The New York Times, Oct 28, 2001.[44]

On September 20, 2000, a reporter at The Wall Street Journal bureau in Dallas wrote a story about how mark-to-market accounting had become prevalent in the energy industry. He noted that outsiders had no real way of knowing the assumptions on which companies that used mark-to-market based their earnings. While the story only appeared in the Texas Journal, the Texas regional edition of the Journal, short-seller Jim Chanos happened to read it and decided to check Enron's 10-K report for himself. Chanos did not think it made sense that Enron's broadband unit appeared to far outpace a then-troubled broadband industry. He also noticed that Enron was spending much of its invested capital, and was alarmed by the large amounts of stock being sold by insiders. In November 2000, he decided to short Enron's stock.[11]:334–338

In February 2001, Chief Accounting Officer Rick Causey told budget managers: "From an accounting standpoint, this will be our easiest year ever. We've got 2001 in the bag."[11]:299 On March 5, Bethany McLean's Fortune article "Is Enron Overpriced?" questioned how Enron could maintain its high stock value, which was trading at 55 times its earnings, arguing that analysts and investors did not know exactly how the company made money.[45] McLean was first drawn to the company's financial situation after Chanos suggested she view the company's 10-K for herself.[11]:338 In a post-mortem interview with The Washington Post, she recalled finding "strange transactions", "erratic cash flow", and "huge debt." The debt was the biggest red flag to McLean; she wondered how a supposedly profitable company could be "adding debt at such a rapid rate."[46] Later, in her book, The Smartest Guys in the Room, McLean recalled speaking off the record with a number of people in the investment community who were growing skeptical about Enron.[11]:338

McLean telephoned Skilling to discuss her findings prior to publishing the article, but he called her "unethical" for not properly researching his company.[47] Fastow claimed that Enron could not reveal earnings details as the company had more than 1,200 trading books for assorted commodities and did "...  not want anyone to know what's on those books. We don't want to tell anyone where we're making money."[45]

In a conference call on April 17, 2001, then-Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Skilling verbally attacked Wall Street analyst Richard Grubman,[48] who questioned Enron's unusual accounting practices during a recorded conference call. When Grubman complained that Enron was the only company that could not release a balance sheet along with its earnings statements, Skilling stammered, "Well uh ... Thank you very much, we appreciate it ...  Asshole."[49] This became an inside joke among many Enron employees, mocking Grubman for his perceived meddling rather than Skilling's offensiveness, with slogans such as, "Ask Why, Asshole", a variation on Enron's off