MIR to be abandoned

Tue, 1 Jun 1999 20:18:10 +0200

Russian space agencies have decided to evacuate the 13-year-old Mir space
station, leaving it unmanned in orbit for at least six months before a final
decision on the station's fate is made.
Russia's cash-strapped space program will try to raise funds from private
investors to keep Mir in space, but failing that will send one final crew to
Mir early next year to dismantle parts of the station before it plunges into
the Pacific Ocean. 
A spokesman for Russia's Space Agency said the decision was "unpleasant and
forced on us by financial circumstances" after the government ruled out
additional funding beyond the August cut-off date. 
Before abandoning Mir, the three-man crew currently on board the station
will install a computer that will allow ground controllers to monitor the
flight of the 140-ton behemoth around earth. 
The computer and installation manual will be sent up to Mir on an unmanned
Progress freighter in July. 
Russian Space Agency officials are pessimistic that funds to save Mir will
be found by winter, and plans are being made to send the station into a
lower orbit in preparation for the eventual plunge toward a remote area of
the Pacific Ocean in February or March.