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Mir to Be Dumped In February

By Vladimir Isachenkov
posted: 10:07 am ET 
23 October 2000      

MOSCOW (AP) -- A senior Cabinet official said on Monday that the Mir space 
station will be dumped early next year, leaving no hope for the survival of 
the last symbol of Soviet space glory. 

"We are planning to bring the Mir down into the ocean at the end of 
February," Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said, according to Russian 
news agencies. 

Klebanov, who is in charge of space policy in the Cabinet, had previously 
voiced hope that private funds may still save the nearly 15-year-old Mir. 

Earlier this year, the station had won a new lease on life when the 
Netherlands-based MirCorp signed a lease agreement and provided some funds to 
keep it aloft. 

On Monday, however, Klebanov left no doubt that the decision to dump Mir was 
final, saying that officials are now preparing details of the operation to 
discard the venerable station. His spokeswoman, Oksana Onishchenko, said that 
the official Cabinet decision to dump the outpost would be made later, but 
added that Mir would certainly be brought down. 

MirCorp executives have been in Moscow this month, trying to persuade 
government officials that Mir should remain in orbit. Jeffrey Manber, 
president of Mircorp, still held out hope. 

"We have cash flow estimates next year of over $100 million. We've 
demonstrated to the Russian government that we have the capability, if we can 
get through this crisis now," Manber said. 

He said he expected a formal Cabinet decision within two weeks. 

MirCorp had recently announced a drive to raise $117 million in a stock 
offering to refurbish the station and keep it flying. Its plans included 
sending Santa Monica, California businessman Dennis Tito as a tourist to the 
station early next year for $20 million. 

Russian space officials have grown increasingly skeptical about MirCorp's 
ability to raise the money needed to keep the station aloft. MirCorp had said 
it would finance last week's fuel-supply flight by a Progress cargo ship, but 
Manber said Monday that it will be able to come up with the money only in two 
to three weeks. 

Mir has been quickly losing altitude since its latest crew left in June, and 
Russian space officials have said it's necessary to raise the orbit now so 
that the 130-ton station doesn't fall out of control. 

The uncontrollable plunge of Mir would be a nightmare that Russian space 
officials need to avoid at all costs, since heavy fragments of the station 
could conceivably fall on populated areas. 

Klebanov said that another Progress with a larger amount of fuel would be 
launched to Mir to give it the final impulse to bring it down. 

The government has pledged to devote its scarce space funds to the new 
International Space Station, a 16-nation project led by the United States, 
and has been under an intense pressure from NASA to dump Mir. 


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