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Tuesday, 20 February, 2001, 23:38 GMT
Space scientists plead for Mir reprieve
Scientists say Mir should be kept alive
Russian scientists who want to save the Mir space station from its planned destruction have staged a protest on the streets of Moscow.

They gathered outside the Russian Space Agency in freezing temperatures to make their plea for Mir's preservation.


There's no point in dumping Mir before the International Space Station is open for scientific work

Protesting engineer
The protest was held on the space station's 15th - and final - birthday.

In mid-March the ageing station is due to be brought back to earth in a planned descent which will destroy it.

The scientists - backed by some cosmonauts and other campaigners - insist that Mir has not outlived its usefulness.

"There's no point in dumping Mir before the International Space Station is open for scientific work," said one of the protesters, Vladimir Bryukhanov, an engineer at the Moscow Institute for Space Instrument Design.

Mir
Scientists say Mir has not outlived its usefulness
Nationalists also want Mir preserved, viewing it as a national treasure and source of pride.

But the government's decision to destroy Mir has the backing of Moscow's partners in the International Space Station - who say scarce resources should be put into the new venture.

Mir has a history of unexpected longevity.

When it was launched on 20 Feb, 1986, it was designed to last three years.

Fifteen years later, it has been the venue for a series of space endurance records, including the longest space walk and the longest stay by an astronaut or cosmonaut in space.

In its spectacular final fling, Mir will disintegrate and burn up as it tumbles through the thicker layers of the Earth's atmosphere.

Sun activity

Large chunks are expected to make it through to the surface of the planet, but Russian space officials hope to time the whole procedure so that any debris hits a remote area of the southern Pacific.

Officials say unexpected weather conditions on the Sun mean Mir will not be destroyed until some time between 13 and 18 March, perhaps even later.

The delay has been caused by a flare-up in solar activity, which has made the Earth's atmosphere denser, affecting the speed at which Mir descends.


Fiery descent

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See also:

15 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
09 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
27 Jan 01 | Europe
26 Jan 01 | Science/Nature
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