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(Story sent earlier was only the last half.  Here is the complete Space Comm 
package.  RN)

Russians React to Mir's Planned Demise Next Year

By Yuri Karash
Moscow Contributing Correspondent

MOSCOW -- The suggestion that a kamikaze cosmonaut will crash the Mir space 
station into the Empire State Building is among the more extreme responses 
recently heard in Russia in reaction to the outpost's planned demise next 

Launched into orbit in 1986, Mir is to be brought down in a controlled, but 
fiery reentry through Earth's atmosphere in late February so that any 
surviving chunks of debris fall harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean. 

Long a symbol of Russian pride, ending the life of the Mir space station is 
not universally accepted by folks in and around Moscow, with the most 
outlandish reaction coming from the communist newspaper Zavtra. 

In recent editions, the newspaper says it has obtained information from the 
Federal Security Service that a cosmonaut will guide Mir through Earth's 
atmosphere to crash into Manhattan, thus destroying "world evil" and "free" 
Russia from foreign occupation. 

Impossible, say Russian space officials. 

"I think that Zavtra definitely exaggerates the precision of the Mir space 
station diving," said Sergey Zhukov, a director at the Russian Technology 
Transfer Center, an organization which is in charge of all licensing and 
patenting activities of the Russian Aviation and Space Agency 

"Even if a cosmonaut decides to stay on board the station on a kamikaze 
mission and crash it into Empire State Building, he may end up crashing it in 
a beach hotel somewhere in Hawaii or in casino in Bangkok," Zhukov said. 
"However, speaking seriously, I was of a higher opinion of Zavtra's 
competence. This story shows that its editors have no clue in the dynamic and 
control of spaceflight, to say at least." 

A more balanced opinion on Mir's imminent loss comes from Ivan Safronov -- an 
aerospace observer for the Russian newspaper Kommersant -- who does not 
believe the decision to deorbit Mir was made at the right time and by the 
right people. 

"Those who initiated this decision lack the necessary technical competence to 
make a conclusion regarding Mir's technical health," Safronov said. "Besides, 
Mir still has a lot of useful equipment which, instead of being used, will be 
dropped into the ocean." 

Nevertheless, the State Interdepartmental Commission on Mir Orbital Outpost 
Operation formally okayed the long-unfolding plan on Friday in a document 
that included the approving signature of Yuri Semenov, president and general 
designer of RKK Energia, the company responsible for building and operating 

The plan must now be submitted to the Russian government for acceptance, an 
event expected to take place sometime early this week. 

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 

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 

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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