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Tuesday, July 27, 1999 Published at 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK


Rally for Mir

Russians are urged to donate 10 roubles each

The Russian public has donated 200,000 roubles (about $8,000 dollars) to keep the Mir station going, Russian Ekho Moskvy radio has reported.

The deputy director of the charitable fund collecting the money, Pavel Govorov, said donations had been received from all over Russia, but that $250m a year were needed to keep Mir up and running.

A motor rally to publicise the fund started from the town of Korolev near Moscow, the headquarters of Mir's owner the Energiya space corporation. Russian MPs, cosmonauts, writers and artists will spend two weeks touring major industrial cities until the rally ends in St Petersburg.

"Russia respect your science so that Mir does not fall into the ocean," one guitarist sang to a crowd of around 50 Muscovites.

The Mir campaigners say Russia will lose expertise and pride by retiring the space station, which has suffered an increasing number of problems as it ages.

International commitment

The government refuses to fund the project further, having committed itself to the International Space Station (ISS) now under construction.

Mir will fly unmanned for half a year after the three-man crew leaves in August. If private funding cannot be found in the interim, the craft will be brought back to Earth early next year.

"If every Russian paid 10 roubles, that's half a pack of cigarettes, space station Mir could fly on," said Igor Bratishev, vice chairman of the Mir charity.

"Russia's participation in the International Space Station, will only constitute 6%. 6%! With Mir - it was 100% Russian," Bratishev said.

A number of financial schemes have been proposed to save Mir. Russian cosmonaut Vitaliy Sevastyanov has suggested the money be raised through a share floatation.

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