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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 09:25 GMT
Mir meets fiery end
Fragments AP
The fragments that survived re-entry hit their target
The fiery remnants of Russia's Mir space station have crashed into the southern Pacific Ocean.

Watch AP
Those watching from Pacific islands caught a great show
Eyewitnesses were treated to a spectacular display as superheated fragments of the 15-year-old orbital platform streaked across the evening sky. Sonic booms were heard as material passed overhead.

The procedure to bring down Mir was a triumph for Russian ground controllers. Final manoeuvres passed off flawlessly and the wreckage hit its intended target area.

Australian officials monitoring the descent put the platform's watery grave at 160 degrees west, 40 degrees south, or 5,800 km (3,600 miles) off the eastern coast of Australia. These co-ordinates were confirmed by Russian data.

Brilliant display

Moscow sent a final command to Mir at 0507 GMT as it passed over the Mediterranean. This lit the engines of the Progress supply ship docked to the platform and plunged the pride of the Russian space programme into a catastrophic collision with the Earth's atmosphere.

Picture AFP
One of the very last images received from the Mir orbital platform
The disintegrating Mir passed over Japan just after 0530 GMT and headed out over the Pacific Ocean.

As fragments hurtled downwards, some of the best views of the re-entry could be had on the islands of Fiji. Eyewitness Mark Herring told the BBC: "It really was quite a brilliant, spectacular display.

"We had nine to 12 principal pieces, highly illuminated, trailing smoke, dashing through the atmosphere in about 20 seconds from horizon line to horizon line."

Impact zone

What fell to Earth?
Mir had a core module and five other components weighing about 130 tonnes
With a cargo ship and an escape capsule attached, Mir's total weight was nearer 140 tonnes
The modules were arranged in a T-shaped structure, 25.8m (86ft) by 28.8m (96ft) by 29.7m (99ft)
About 1,500 fragments of 20kg (40lbs) or more were expected to fall into the target zone
A hail of debris - perhaps as much as 25 tonnes - was thought to have hit the surface of the ocean at about 0600 GMT. It would have been travelling at speeds of 200 to 300 metres (650 to 1,000 feet) per second.

Deputy flight commander in the Moscow control room, Viktor Blagov, said it was impossible to know precisely how much of Mir survived re-entry.

"It is only the inhabitants of the ocean who have the exact information," he joked.

The de-orbiting procedure could not have gone better. According to officials in Moscow, the final impulse from the Progress engines lasted slightly longer than originally planned, allowing the size of the final impact zone to be narrowed.

Space power

Yuri Semyonov, president of Energia, the company that built and operated the platform, said: "No problems emerged during the bringing of the Mir out of orbit; all happened the way we expected."

Control room AP
The return was a triumph for ground controllers in Moscow
Yuri Koptev, the Russian Space Agency chief, thanked specialists at the control centre for an "operation that was fulfilled perfectly".

"They did not make any wrong steps, and their calculations had an accuracy up to one millimetre," he said.

"Mir proved Russia cannot just build things but can operate them too. It once again shows Russia is and will remain a space power."

Graphic BBC
The BBC's Fergus Nicholl
"Spectators... heard sonic booms"
The BBC's Andrew Clark
"Only a clear-up operation will confirm if any areas of land have been hit"
Mark Herring, eyewitness
"It really was quite a brilliant, spectacular display"

Fiery descent




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