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SAREX Enthusiasts:

Several of you have asked the question as to when Mir will deorbit.  Right
now, that answer is not firmed up.  The following news article provides a
good overview of the debate that is occuring in Russia on this topic.  As
we get more information on this, we will share it with the general community.

Frank Bauer, KA3HDO for the SAREX Working Group


Russian space officials lobby to save Mir

By Adam Tanner 

MOSCOW, June 26 (Reuters) - Russian space officials on Friday lobbied for the
ageing Mir station, warning it could hurtle to Earth without proper funding
and would represent a giant leap backward for mankind if retired prematurely. 

``We face the risk of losing the world's only means at present to carry out
long-term research in space,'' Valery Polyakov, who spent a record 438 days on
Mir in 1994-5, told Reuters. ``We are gathering forces to influence public
opinion and the scientific community.'' 

Viktor Blagov, Mir's deputy flight director, said government funding -- or the
lack of it -- will determine how precisely space planners can engineer its
controlled descent to Earth. 

``There is no big danger now. Physical laws will not allow Mir to fall before
June 1999 as the worst-case scenario,'' he said. ``It will probably hold there
till December or even the start of 2000.'' 

``But at some stage we may face a situation when something may go wrong on Mir
and there will be no one there to repair the malfunction. In this case Mir
would become uncontrollable and it could fall to earth almost anywhere,'' he
told Reuters. 

Russia, pressed by a United States concerned about further delays to the new
International Space Station, has agreed to retire Mir by December 1999. By
then the first crews are scheduled to be in orbit aboard the new station, and
U.S. officials say Russia cannot support both programmes. 

Space officials plan to use a series of booster rockets to lower the orbit of
the seven-module station. But the Russian government is suffering a prolonged
financial crisis. 

``Since January this year we have received no money at all from the state,''
another senior space official said. 

Energiya, the rocket design bureau that owns Mir, says money woes could
unhappily force them to shut the station earlier than December 1999. 

``We have a unique working station with 11 tonnes of state-of-the-art
scientific equipment delivering invaluable data....Why do they (the
government) think they have the right to dump it?'' 

Without funding, space officials say they will not be able to build the
Progress rockets needed to supply the crew or power the descent of the station
upon its retirement. 

``Perhaps you could say we are lobbying in a last attempt to convince the
government,'' said Igor Goncharov, another deputy flight director. ``If there
is no money there will be no possibility to direct Mir's landing. It's really
a tense situation.'' 

Mir has already descended from its normal orbit of 390-400 km above the earth
to 370 km, Blagov said. 

A controlled descent plan sees Mir partly burning up in the atmosphere and its
remains sinking in the ocean off New Zealand, where there are no islands or
plane or ship routes. 

If uncontrolled, there is a small theoretical chance of the remains falling on
populated parts of Europe or America. 

``The scientists will be able to define where the pieces are going to fall
approximately one week in advance, or one day with absolute precision. The
chance of someone getting hurt exists but it is rather small as only 20
percent of Mir's trajectory is above the land, and this land is not
100-percent populated.'' 

The Soviet Salyut-7 station launched in 1982 was abandoned in 1986 after
wiring malfunctions and its remains fell on Argentina and Chile in 1991, but
no one was hurt. 

Two or three fresh crews are expected to visit the station before it is
finally shut, including a French and a Slovak cosmonaut. Missions involving
foreigners help significantly to finance launches.