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MIR



Tuesday June 1 8:41 AM ET 

Mir Crew To Leave in August

By GREG MYRE Associated Press Writer 

MOSCOW (AP) - The Mir's current crew will abandon the Russian space station 
in August, and the orbiter will circle Earth unmanned until early next year, 
when it is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, space officials said today.

Russia's cash-strapped government has only agreed to finance the 13-year-old 
space station through August, and says it should be discarded then unless 
private funding is found. Repeated attempts to raise the money have failed.

A panel of top Russian space officials decided today that the only option 
would be for the three-man crew to leave in August, said Vyacheslav 
Mikhailichenko, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency.

Prior to the crew's departure, they will install a new computer allowing 
ground controllers to command the station without a crew on board, Russian 
news reports said.

Mir's orbit, currently about 240 miles above Earth, will gradually diminish. 
At about 125 miles above the Earth, ground controllers will send a final 
command that will cause the station to burn up in the atmosphere.

That will probably happen in February or March, officials said.

The Mir was plagued by several serious accidents in 1997, but has been 
running relatively smoothly since then.

Russian space officials have said the Mir could safely remain in space for 
several more years, but the government has refused to put up any additional 
cash. 

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