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MIR Mirror KAPUT



Re-posted because the first transmission did not go through.
This is sent to keep the records straight.

Mir's Mirror Experiment Called Off

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV

.c The Associated Press 

MOSCOW (AP) -- The Mir space station crew on Friday abandoned a failed
experiment with a sun-reflecting mirror -- a prototype officials had hoped
would lead to larger models that could illuminate sun-starved northern cities
and disaster areas. 

The mirror was supposed to work like an artificial moon, reflecting a beam of
sunlight across the earth. But a deployment mechanism jammed Thursday, and
scientists could not find a way to correct the problem. 

On Friday, the Mir crew sent the mirror, attached to a cargo ship filled with
trash, into the earth's atmosphere, where it burned up and dropped into the
Pacific Ocean. 

The experiment had been billed as a display of the Russian space agency's
ability to conduct ambitious projects despite a lack of funds. But instead it
brought back memories of 1997 -- when a series of accidents and malfunctions
plagued the 13-year-old Mir, including a near-fatal collision with a cargo
ship. 

``The mood here is very depressed,'' said Valery Lyndin, a Mission Control
spokesman. ``The failure was specially painful because of huge worldwide
interest that the experiment aroused.'' 

``We have forgotten the old principle of Russian space programs -- to do
something first and boast about it only afterward,'' he added. 

Had the experiment gone smoothly, the mirror would have shone light on a spot
five miles in diameter in a number of regions in the former Soviet Union,
Germany and the Czech Republic. From the earth, the mirror would have
resembled an immobile pinpoint of light, only slightly brighter or larger than
an ordinary star, that would be visible for 15 seconds. 

Russian space experts hoped the mirror would lead to much larger models that
could illuminate northern cities through the long Arctic night and spotlight
disaster areas. They also dreamed of futuristic spaceships that would glide
through space using similar structures as `sails' to catch solar wind. 

The mirror, which was to be 83 feet in diameter when fully extended, was
attached to a Progress cargo ship and set free from the Mir on Thursday.
Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev then sent a remote command to
unfold the mirror, made of a thin membrane covered with a silver metal layer. 

The mirror started rotating, and a system of weights and strings began to pull
out the thin membranes on the flower-like structure. But the deployment
mechanism jammed and the mirror stopped spinning. 

Exasperated crew and ground controllers struggled for hours to fix the hitch,
even getting the mirror rotating again by shaking it with repeated blasts of
the cargo ship's jets -- only to see it stop a second time. 

It was unclear why the deployment failed. 

Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said another space mirror is sitting
ready on earth, but the experiment won't be repeated because there is no space
for the object in upcoming cargo launches. 

Russian officials did not rule out that the project would be retried on the
future 16-nation international space station, which is expected to be ready in
2004. 

AP-NY-02-05-99 1640EST 


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