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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 09:51 GMT
Date set for Mir's final plunge
Mir AP
About 1,500 pieces of debris are expected to plunge into the Pacific
Russia has given final details of how it intends to bring down the redundant Mir space station.

The platform is now set to crash into the southern Pacific Ocean on Friday at about 0630 GMT.

Ground controllers believe they can safely de-orbit the 15-year-old station with a series of carefully timed braking manoeuvres.

The commission organising the destruction is passing the information to foreign governments. It has also designated an area of the ocean which shipping should avoid.

Technical problems

Around 20 tonnes of the platform's 137-tonne mass are expected to survive re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, with about 1,500 pieces of debris hitting the Pacific waters at near-sonic speeds.


We propose...that the funds received from this...be spent on creating a national orbiting space complex, Mir 2

Gennady Seleznyov
The fragments are being targeted at an area 200km (120 miles) wide and 6,000km long, between New Zealand and Chile.

The destruction of Mir was originally planned for the end of February, but this has been delayed because of technical problems.

The exact day and time for the platform's re-entry was finally decided on Tuesday by a special commission chaired by Russian space agency chief Yuri Koptev.

Final journey

The Progress supply ship docked to Mir will fire three short bursts from its rocket boosters when the platform descends to an altitude of about 220 kilometres (130 miles) above the Earth.

This first burn will occur around at 0030 GMT on Friday. A second burn will take place at about 0200 GMT.

The last and the most powerful braking burst should come at about 0500 GMT, after data from the first two impulses have been analysed.

The final impulse is expected to occur as the station flies over Africa and should send Mir into a catastrophic dive into the Pacific.

The commission has defined a no-entrance zone for vessels in the ocean. All the de-orbiting details are being passed to countries located underneath Mir's final trajectory.

Replacement station

The speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament has made a last-minute appeal to President Vladimir Putin to stop the destruction and to order the creation of a replacement station.

Gennady Seleznyov told Putin in a letter that funds received from the Americans as payment for Russian work on the International Space Station should be directed at a new Mir project.

"We propose...that the funds received from this...be spent on creating a national orbiting space complex, Mir 2," Seleznyov said.

Seleznyov, like many other members of parliament's communist block, has been angered by the decision to destroy Mir.

The communists see its fate as a sign of Russia's post-Soviet decline. They are all the more bitter as Russia will next month celebrate the 40th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's historic first flight into space.

Seleznyov said Mir needed to be kept in space so that its scientific equipment could be transferred to Mir 2 when it was ready.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Russia's final task is to prevent Mir falling into anyone's backyard"

Fiery descent

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16 Mar 01 | Asia-Pacific
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