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Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 17:45 GMT
Mir to be turned into hotel
Mir has a history of technical problems
Mir has a history of technical problems
A group of investors has signed a $20m deal to rent the Mir space station and turn the ageing platform into an out-of-this-world holiday spot, a commercial laboratory and even a film set.

"We're sending a mission up in March to knock on the door, switch on the lights and see how everything's going up there. It's a risky venture but we're feeling confident," said Jeffrey Manber, president of MirCorp, the company behind the project which was unveiled in London on Thursday.

But a visit to the ultimate tourist destination orbiting some 200 km (120miles) above the Earth, does not come cheap. Tourists will be asked to fork out $20m a head to visit the station which measures five school buses in size.

One of the first visitors may be a star in his own right, the 52-year-old Russian actor Vladimir Steklov. He could soon be playing the part of a renegade cosmonaut who refuses to return to Earth. With a budget the size of the film Titanic, the makers of this Russo-British film have tentatively called it "The Last Journey". Bearing in mind the history of this space station, this may prove a very good title.

The 14-year-old station has surpassed its expected five-year lifespan, but it is suffering from metal fatigue, corrosion and chemical contamination among other problems.

Washington millionaire

It is estimated it will cost over $100 million a year to man and maintain. Mir was due to be dumped into the Pacific this year after being abandoned by its last crew in August, but was saved after the Washington millionaire Walt Anderson paid $7 million to keep the station alive.

Walt Anderson has drawn together a group of investors including venture capital firm Gold & Appel and internet investor Chirinjeev Kathuria to form Amsterdam-based MirCorp.

It will not be five star
It will not be five star
MirCorp will spend up to $200 million renovating the station. It bought the rights from former Russian state agency RSC Energia, which also has a stake in the new venture.

"We want to draw other corporations into this venture as well. This is not just a hotel for the rich, it has many potential uses from pharmaceutical experimentation and beaming live images back to Earth, to advertising and satellite repair," said Jeffrey Manber.

Manber accepts the project is risky. Mir suffered a near-deadly fire in 1997 and a crippling crash that forced one section to be sealed off because of a punctured hull.

"The mission could well go up in March and find it's not feasible. But we know from cameras pretty much what the state of it is now and it's a wonderful view from up there," he said.

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See also:

03 Feb 00 | Sci/Tech
Cargo spacecraft docks with Mir
20 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir stays in space - official
14 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Mir may become space hotel
13 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
New crew to visit Mir
11 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
New delay for space station
16 Sep 99 | Sci/Tech
Mir: The end
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