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MIR to be abandon

June 1, 1999
Web posted at: 9:07 a.m. EDT (1307 GMT)
MOSCOW (CNN) -- The crew aboard the Mir space station will leave in August, and
the craft will orbit the Earth unmanned until early next year, space officials
said Tuesday. Repeated attempts by Russia to find private funding to keep the
13-year-old space station aloft have failed. 
A panel of top Russian space officials decided Tuesday that the best option
would be for the three-man crew to leave in August, said Vyacheslav
Mikhailichenko, a spokesman for the Russian Space Agency. 
Prior their departure, the crew 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 380 kilometers (240 miles) above the Earth, will
gradually approach Earth. At about 200 kilometers (125 miles) above Earth,
ground controllers plan to send a final command that will cause it burn up in
the Earth's atmosphere. 
That will probably happen in February or March, officials said. 
Mir, the longest-lived space station ever, was plagued by several serious
accidents in 1997, including a near-fatal collision with a cargo ship during a
docking maneuver, but has been running relatively smoothly since then. 
The United States had urged Russia to abandon Mir to focus its resources on the
new International Space Station. 
Nearly two weeks ago, Russian President Boris Yeltsin said Mir could remain in
orbit for several more years, as long as the government didn't have to pay for
According to the RKK Energia company, which runs the space station, one plan
for private aid fell through last week when 51-year-old British businessman
Peter Llewellyn failed to come up with $100 million for a weeklong ride on Mir.

Mir is now occupied by three men -- Russians Viktor Afanasyev and Sergei
Avdeyev, and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Haignere. 

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