Friday, July 3, 1998 Published at 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Mir to be destroyed
Mir has been hit by a series of technical problems
Russia's Mir space station is to be destroyed in 2000, after 14 years orbiting the Earth.
Now the Russian Government has agreed that for financial and safety reasons the station should be retired.
The station's orbit will be reduced progressively from next June, using the engines of cargo craft sent into space specifically for the purpose.
Nine months later it will be dropped into the lower atmosphere where it is expected to explode, with the debris falling into the Pacific Ocean, near New Zealand.
Before Mir's final plunge three different crews will be sent to man the 100-tonne space station, including a Franco-Russian team in July and August next year.
Space officials had warned earlier this year that the station may have to come down as early as next month because of government underfunding.
Electricity at the Baikonur cosmodrome, from which flights to Mir are launched, was turned off because of the cash shortage.
International space station
But following discussions between Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov and head of the Russian Space Agency Yuri Koptev, and a new investment of $100m (£59,892,000) over the next 12 months, the life of the station has been extended.
The government has decided to concentrate funds in the future on a new international space station.
Yuri Semyonov, of the station's operating company, Energia, said: "Of course I'm sorry about having to bring down Mir, but there is not enough money for two stations."
The Russian Space Agency's Deputy Director, Boris Ostroumov, said safety was also a factor in the early end to Mir, which had a near-fatal collision with a cargo resupply ship a year ago.
"The station's guarantee was for three years and it has flown more than 12 years with very many repairs, breakdowns - and something worse than a breakdown could happen - so we must think of safety above all.
"It's for the safety of both cosmonauts and people on Earth since we must act while the station's navigation system is still working to facilitate a controlled descent."
The first module of the new International Space Station - a combined effort between the United States, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, is expected to be launched in November.
The first crew of two Russians and one American should go up in the late spring of 1999, shortly before Mir's retirement.