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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pacific Island Catches Glimpse of Mir

NADI, Fiji — Standing on a tropical beach in the South Pacific, Russian cosmonauts, American space enthusiasts and the prime minister of Fiji gawked and clapped Tuesday as the doomed Mir space station flashed overhead.

The Mir made a quick low pass, looking like a shooting star as it flashed across the sky for about 10 seconds. A crowd of about 200 people pointed and clapped before Mir disappeared on its next circle of the globe. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was among the spectators.

The four cosmonauts watching on the beach all served aboard Mir, including Sergei Avdeyev, who spent more time than anyone aboard the station.

Scheduled to make a fiery re-entry Friday and break up in the Earth's atmosphere, Mir passed some 220 kilometers overhead Tuesday as it headed for a space junk graveyard in the southern Pacific ocean.

American space engineer and Mir re-entry observation expedition leader Bob Citron said the sighting may have been Mir's last curtain call.

Click here to read our special report on Russia's New Space Age.

"Tonight we said good-bye to Mir," he said after the sighting on the sandy shore.

"We may have been the last people on earth to see it," he said.

Moscow aerospace adviser Yury Karash said it "is very possible that we said good-bye to Mir. Maybe we saw the space station for the last time in the world's history."

"I hope that this is not true, but God knows," he added.

Karash said the expedition of more than 30 enthusiasts who will fly to the drop zone several thousand kilometers south of Fiji might see its final fiery re-entry Friday. They will try to chase the falling debris in a plane.

Citron was thrilled at seeing Mir.

"There may be some other areas of the world that it is still visible, but it's doubtful anybody is going to actually see it because it's now in such a low orbit," he said.

The cosmonauts among the crowd watching Mir were nostalgic.

Karash said it was a very exciting and a sad moment for the space scientists on the beach, but it was time to move on.

At a reception for the expedition, Qarase said Fijians marveled at the achievements of Russian scientists in developing Mir, putting it into orbit and making it into a place for humans to live.

"All of us, whether Russians or not, benefit from such activity. It's an achievement that benefits mankind," he said.