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I thought you'd like to see this article on the continuing saga of Mir and
its future retirement.  It looks like Russia has made it official.


Frank Bauer, KA3HDO

ps Delivery of the first element of the ISS Amateur Radio Station is
expected about 6 months from now.  This element is expect to include
contributions from Germany, Russia and the US.  First crew operations is
expected about 1 year from now.  Stay tuned to the SAREX reflector for more
details.  We should have a great deal to share with you after the ARISS
meeting in Surrey, England which is planned for the end of this month.

Russia agrees to retire Mir station early

By Adam Tanner 

MOSCOW, July 2 (Reuters) - Russia decided on Thursday to retire the Mir space
station next June, six months earlier than expected, in recognition of the
government's financial woes, top space officials said. 

Russia's principal partner in space exploration, the U.S. space agency NASA,
welcomed the decision which will allow Moscow to focus its efforts on the new
International Space Station. 

The decision to bring forward Mir's demise from December 1999 was made at a
meeting between Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, Space Agency Director
Yuri Koptev and Yury Semyonov, head of the Energiya rocket corporation which
owns Mir. 

Nemstov ``decided to continue work on the Mir station scheduled for 1998 and
by the middle of 1999, in June, we will lower the orbit and sink it into the
ocean in a controlled manner,'' Semyonov told Reuters. 

``Of course I'm sorry about it but there is not enough money for two

Boris Ostroumov, the Russian Space Agency's deputy director, said safety was
also a factor in the early end to Mir, which had a near-fatal collision with a
cargo resupply ship a year ago. 

``The station's guarantee was for three years and it has flown more than 12
years with very many repairs, breakdowns -- and something worse than a
breakdown could happen -- so we must think of safety above all,'' he said in
an interview. 

``It's for the safety of both cosmonauts and people on Earth since we must act
while the station's navigation system is still working to facilitate a
controlled descent.'' 

NASA has pressed Russia to bring down Mir to focus its limited resources on
the new space station, already a year behind schedule largely because of
Russian delays. 

``NASA's not surprised that Russia has decided to conclude Mir operations in
an orderly manner,'' spokeswoman Kathleen Maliga said. 

``During the recent meeting of heads of agencies Koptev told the international
partners that Russia has made the International Space Station its number one

Semyonov and other officials have recently stepped up pressure on the
government to come up with funding or face the possibility that the station
could literally come crashing down on their heads. 

Under the Thursday agreement, the government promised 600 million roubles
(about $100 million) for Mir's final year. But Semyonov said it was still
unclear whether Russia, which is undergoing a prolonged financial crisis,
could provide the cash. 

``It would be good if the world community helped us by allocating these
monies,'' Semyonov said in an interview. ``All of those who flew on Mir --
America, France, Germany.'' 

These countries have already paid millions of dollars for the right to fly on
Mir and so far have not volunteered more. 

Ostroumov said the funds would allow the agency to direct Mir to an
unpopulated area of the Pacific Ocean within a month of the last crew's

People associated with the Mir programme were disappointed to see what used to
be a priority project sputter out because of limited funds. 

``Of course I'm sorry but you have to be philosophical about this,'' said
Viktor Blagov, Mir's deputy flight director. ``I'd like to extend my own life
too but, excuse me, we only live as long as we are given.'' 

The first module of the new International Space Station -- a combined effort
of the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan -- is expected to be
launched in November. 

The first crew of two Russians and one American should go up in the late
spring of 1999, shortly before Mir's retirement. 

Russian officials said a French and Slovak would be among the last cosmonauts
to visit Mir on short missions. 

Mir is the longest-serving space station in aviation history and has been a
valuable laboratory to research the impact of long-duration missions on the
body and conduct other experiments.

Frank H. Bauer, KA3HDO
AMSAT V.P. for Manned Space Programs
E-mail:  ka3hdo@amsat.org