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Mir News



Russians Say U.S. Firm May Save Space Station
 
By Robert Eksuzyan

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Mir space station, which has circled the earth 
empty since August, may be sent another crew this year for an extended 
flight, paid for by a U.S. firm, Mir's builders said Monday.

Mir has been empty and partly shut down since August and is to be crashed 
into the Pacific Ocean unless Russian officials can find funds to keep it 
aloft.

Sergei Gromov, spokesman for Russia's Energiya rocket builder, told Reuters 
by telephone that a U.S. firm, Golden Apple, had promised to send $20 million 
by March to continue the program.

Gromov said the builders planned to send a crew to Mir in March for a mission 
lasting at least 45 days. He said the U.S. firm had already paid $7 million 
of the $20 million promised, but gave no further details about the company.

``It is technically possible to continue the flight. We are waiting for two 
authorities to confirm the decision. One is the Russian Space Agency, which 
is holding a meeting Wednesday, and then the government itself must give 
consent,'' Gromov said.

If the Mir program were to be ended, a crew would probably fly to the station 
for a brief mission to shut it down before it was guided on a crash course 
into the Pacific.

Russia Has Most Experience In Long-Term Space Flight

The Mir program has given Russia by far the world's most extensive experience 
of long-term manned space flight, and the country is using that knowledge to 
build the main living quarters of the new $60 billion International Space 
Station.

But the new station has been repeatedly delayed and the United States wants 
Russia to abandon Mir and focus its resources on the new orbiter.

Mir has stayed in orbit long past its original five-year lifespan and was 
plagued by problems in the late 1990s. Russian space officials have been 
reluctant to abandon the prize achievement of their space program.

Over the past year, various schemes have been floated to find commercial 
funding or private donors to save Mir.

Last year a British entrepreneur, Peter Llewellyn, promised $100 million to 
save Mir if he were allowed to ride on it, but he never paid up and was sent 
home before completing a training course at Russia's Star City space base. 
 

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