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.