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Mir's Descent

By the Associated Press

The tentative schedule for the Mir space station's final few months,
according to flight controllers:

* On Saturday, a three-member crew leaves the Mir aboard a Soyuz
capsule, switching the station to auto-pilot. They will shut down the
refrigerator, exercise machines and some computers. Mission control will
cut daily communication sessions with Mir to two from the current 16.

* Over the next six months, power to Mir will be reduced and the station
will sink from its current orbit about 225 miles from Earth to about 200

* In February or March, "cleanup" crew will visit Mir on another Soyuz.
Once aboard, a Progress-M1 cargo ship will arrive full of fuel. While
the crew dismantles equipment and retrieves experiments, Progress will
periodically fire its engines to push the station closer to Earth.

* When Mir's orbit is down to about 125 to 135 miles, crew will leave on
Soyuz. The Progress will then fire one last powerful push. Within 30 or
40 minutes, Mir is expected to hit Earth's atmosphere. Space officials
hope most of it burns up instantly, but they concede large chunks could
fall to Earth, so they will try to aim it over the Pacific Ocean.

Associated Press, August 26, 1999
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