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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Putin demands successful Mir scuttling
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Russian ground controllers are continuing with their preparations to scuttle the Mir space station.

It would be unforgivable and dismissive to squander everything achieved by previous generations

Vladimir Putin
They have ordered a Progress M-43 cargo tug, which brought fuel to the platform last month, to disconnect itself. This will leave a docking port free for the Progress M1-5 "burial ship", now in orbit, to join up with Mir on Saturday.

The M1-5 is carrying the more than two tonnes of fuel that will be required to sink the platform on 6 March in the Pacific Ocean.

Debris from the ageing orbiter is expected to fall inside a region of water some 6,000 kilometres by 1,000 kilometres, well to the east of Australia and New Zealand.

Detailed information

Moscow is desperately keen for the scuttling mission to pass off without mishap. Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of the national security council on space issues: "It is important to avoid not only technological problems but also negative environmental and other consequences."

News of Russia's plans to dump the station has prompted concern in a number of countries. The Japanese Foreign Minister Yohei Kono has asked the Russian leadership to provide detailed information about the scuttling procedure.

The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPrep), a 26-nation and territories governmental body, has also asked for information from Moscow on a number of issues, including the types of material on board the platform. SPrep is opposed to the South Pacific being used as a general space dumping ground.

Moscow offered some reassurance on Friday when it said that "most of the station's elements" would burn up in the atmosphere. "There are no radioactive, biological, chemical and other dangerous materials on board the station," the foreign ministry said.

Past achievements

President Putin also used the national security council meeting to salute past achievements in the Russian and Soviet space programme, and to warn of the consequences of not exploiting new space technologies.

"It would be unforgivable and dismissive to squander everything achieved by previous generations. Unfortunately, this is the very direction in which we are moving," he said.

"Only 40% of the federal programme dealing with this (space) sector for 1996-2000 has been fulfilled," he said in remarks broadcast on Russian television.

New markets

Moscow is now focusing its limited financial resources for space exploration on the $60bn International Space Station (ISS), a 16-nation venture which will build on Mir's legacy.

"I believe that Russia's future lies in international co-operation in space," Putin said. "There will not only be economic benefit and scientific advances, but also progress in putting Russian innovations on to world markets.

"There has been a sharp reduction in the benefits derived from space systems in terms of national security. We have to raise the role of space technology in the real economy, especially in science and production.

"Unfortunately there is nothing to be proud of in either the civil or military (space) sectors."

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Crash date set for Mir
05 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Russia signs Mir 'death warrant'
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