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Sunday, July 18, 1999 Published at 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK


Successful docking for Mir mission

The cargo ship Progress docks successfully at the Mir space station

The unmanned Russian spacecraft Progress has docked successfully with the space station, Mir, two days after taking off from Kazakhstan.

The vessel docked at 1753 GMT on the side of the station's Kvant 1 module.

Progress brought 1,256 kilogrammes of cargo - including vital supplies of food, water and medical equipment for the cosmonauts, as well as fuel and equipment needed to prepare the aging space station for unmanned orbiting.

The most important cargo was a navigation system to stop Mir from spinning out of control when the three-man crew leaves it next month.

The cosmonauts - Viktor Afanasyev and Sergei Avdeyev of Russia and a Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Haignere - monitored the docking.

Row with Kazakhstan

The launch was delayed because of a row between Russia and the Kazakh authorities, who had imposed a launch ban after a Proton booster rocket carrying a Russian military satellite exploded shortly after lift-off on 5 July.

[ image: Aftermath of the Proton explosion in Kazakhstan]
Aftermath of the Proton explosion in Kazakhstan
But the Kazakh authorities relented after a high-powered Russian delegation agreed to pay off rent-arrears and compensation.

The Progress cargo vessel finally blasted off at 2037 (1637 GMT) on Thursday.

The Russians had warned that if Progress had not been launched by 20 July, then the space station could have crashed to Earth, scattering debris widely.

The plan is that Mir will eventually fall to Earth, slowly burning up in the atmosphere.

"We must not allow the Mir space station to fly out of control," said the head of the Russian Space Agency, Yuri Koptev.

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