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MIR




According to the plan, a Progress resupply ship will be launched to Mir and 
automatically dock with the station. Rocket engines aboard that Progress will 
be used to send Mir diving into Earth's atmosphere to burn up, aiming any 
surviving debris toward an open area of the South Pacific. 

The final plunge is targeted for some time between February 26 and 28. 

The Progress launch is expected in mid January. The spacecraft is scheduled 
to be shipped from its factory near Moscow to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in 
Kazakhstan by the end of this week. 

However, if Mir's on-board computer malfunctions, or if the automated 
Progress spacecraft does not properly dock to the station, a crew of two 
cosmonauts will be scrambled to Mir to manually set the station on its 
crash-dive. 

For such an eventuality, a Soyuz TM-32 spacecraft is available at Baikonur. 
Slated to pull the plug on Mir are mission commander Salizhan Sharipov and 
flight engineer Pavel Vinogradov. The backup crew is Talgat Musabayev 
(mission commander) and Yuri Baturin (cosmonaut-researcher). 

Although the plan seems final, there are still folks actively seeking a 
reprieve of the station's death sentence. 

"As long as Russia has its own space station, it will remain a great space 
power," said V.I. Bodyakin, a researcher at the Institute for the Study of 
Management. 

To extend Mir's life, Bodyakin offered to equip Mir with ion-powered rocket 
engines and move it to lunar orbit in order to use the station as a transit 
outpost during flights to distant planets in the solar system. He also 
proposed that some Eurasian countries, such as China and India, might assist 
in the continued operation of Mir. 

Another reaction comes from V.M. Vishnyakov, deputy chairman of the People's 
Charity Fund for the Preservation of the Mir Space Station. 

Vishnyakov advocates limiting Russia's participation in the International 
Space Station (ISS) program and diverting those funds to keep Mir operational 
through 2005. After that, Russia could concentrate on designing and building 
its own orbital outpost. 


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