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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 23:10 GMT
Russia signs Mir 'death warrant'
Mir AFP
Russia has come under pressure to curtail the Mir mission
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has signed a decree ordering the destruction of the Mir space station after a 15-year mission that has lately been dogged by problems.

Progress rocket
Progress rockets have flown supply missions to Mir
A space agency spokesman said Mr Kasyanov had signed the document on 30 December, formalising a November decision by the government to take Mir out of service due to a lack of funding.

Space officials said a supply craft would be launched in the coming weeks to take the final stocks of fuel to Mir to give the station enough momentum to send it back towards Earth.

The 137-tonne vessel, which has been unmanned since August 2000, is expected to disintegrate as it re-enters the atmosphere. Fragments of the space station will either burn up or splash down into the Pacific Ocean.

Doubts over splash-down

Russian space officials hope the fragments will land about 1,500km (900 miles) east of Australia.

Mir: Sizeable chunks will survive re-entry
Mir: Sizeable chunks will survive re-entry
However, warnings have come from space experts that there are no guarantees that the disposal of Mir will be achieved smoothly.

Precise dates have not been determined, but on Thursday space officials were quoted as saying the Progress supply rocket would be launched on 18 January and Mir would crash to Earth on 27 or 28 February.

More than 100 Russian and foreign cosmonauts have flown on Mir, carrying out scientific experiments and setting a series of space endurance records.

The mission was originally intended to last only five years.

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See also:

26 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Russians lose contact with Mir
26 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir: A timeline
23 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
The end for Mir?
20 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir stays in space - official
16 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
First 'space tourist' announced
04 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Financiers confident of Mir future
27 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
What future for the space station?
26 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Mir: A cosmonaut remembers
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