[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next] - [Date Index][Thread Index][Author Index]


Friday August 27 3:38 PM ET 

Crew Shuts Door On Mir, Possibly For Good

Reuters Photo
Full Coverage
Mir Space Station
Russian Cosmonauts Are Preparing To Abandon Mir, The World's Only Functional 
Orbiting Space Station.
Windows Media - 28.8 | 56
Realplayer G2

Download Players Here 
By Elizabeth Piper

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Two Russian cosmonauts and their French crew mate shut the 
door on the 13-year-old Mir space station Friday, becoming probably the last 
team to make the orbiting laboratory their home.

A television broadcast showed Russians Viktor Afanasyev, 51, and Sergei 
Avdeyev, 43, and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Haignere, 51, transferring to the tiny 
capsule which will bring them home.

Unless more funds can be found, Mir is likely to be put on a course to make 
it plunge back to earth next year.

``We are leaving with a bitter heart, we are leaving a little peace of 
Russia,'' Afanasyev said as he and the two others sat in front of a Russian 
flag, floating in Mir's weightlessness.

Mir had problems but it remained a powerful source of pride for Russia as a 
reminder of its Cold War super power status.

But economic disarray since the collapse of the former Soviet Union in 1991 
has meant space officials have increasingly found it difficult to find funds 
for Mir.

Afanasyev and his crew mates left the station in a condition where it can 
automatically orbit until a decision is made on whether to bring it to back 
to earth.

Avdeyev said the station was shipshape. ``For anyone who wishes to work on 
her then we are leaving the best conditions, he told ground control.

Afanasyev and Haignere have been on Mir since February 22 while Avdeyev has 
been in continuous orbit for 389 days.

The three are expected to return to earth at around 0035 GMT, about three 
hours after their capsule undocks from Mir.

``Every team is sad when it leaves but this crew is, of course, more sad 
because normally when one leaves another one follows. But this time they are 
leaving the craft empty,'' Valery Lyndin said by telephone from Mission 
Control in the space city of Korolyov near Moscow.

``On the other hand, when they return to earth they will meet their families 
and close friends, and that of course is good.''

Avdeyev returns to earth with the record for most time spent in space. By 
Saturday he will have clocked up an overall 742 days in orbit, newspaper 
Vechernaya Moskva has said.

Russian newspapers mourned the cosmonauts' forthcoming departure from Mir, 
whose final chapter is likely in February or March 2000 when a last crew will 
be sent briefly to prepare to push it into a lower orbit and burn up in 
earth's atmosphere.

But papers expressed hope Mir, originally built to last for five years, could 
continue flying for several more years.

``It is still possible to save the station,'' Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper 
said, quoting space workers as saying they had offered Mir's owner, the 
Energiya space corporation, part of their salaries to keep the ailing craft 

Energiya has been embarrassed by several fund-raising flops. It was wary of 
embracing a film director's recent offer to pay for the rights to film on the 
space craft after its last sponsor failed to come up with a $100 million 

Russia's government cut Mir's funding after pledging to finance its 
obligations to the new International Space Station.

Space experts have doubted the safety of leaving Mir cruising in orbit, 
saying the crewless craft could plummet to earth despite a navigation system 
designed to keep it in orbit.

Mir, which has been left unmanned on two earlier occasions, has become 
increasingly accident prone, suffering air supply problems, leaks and a 
collision with a cargo craft in 1997.

Russian officials shrug off the fears. ``They have sealed the craft and are 
getting the system ready for when they leave,'' Lyndin said. ``Everything is 
Via the sarex mailing list at AMSAT.ORG courtesy of AMSAT-NA.
To unsubscribe, send "unsubscribe sarex" to Majordomo@amsat.org