Thursday, February 4, 1999 Published at 10:55 GMT
Znamya falls to Earth
The foil flaps limply underneath the Progress spacecraft
A decision was taken on Friday afternoon (Moscow time) to abandon the Znamya 2.5 experiment after they failed to get the 25-metre foil reflector to deploy properly.
"The mood here is very depressed," said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for the Mission Control in Moscow. "The failure was especially painful because of huge worldwide interest that the experiment aroused."
"We have forgotten the old principle of Russian space programmes - to do something first and boast about it only after," he added.
Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov said another space mirror is sitting ready on earth, but the Znamya (Banner) experiment will not be repeated because there is no place for the object in upcoming cargo launches.
Had the experiment gone smoothly, the mirror would have shone light on a spot about 8 kilometers (5 miles) in diameter in a number of regions in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Czech Republic and Canada.
The experiment had attracted some criticism from astronomers who fear the development of the project could lead to an array of mirrors in the sky which would interfere with their investigation of the stars.