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Fwd = Russia to Send Crewmen to Mothballed Mir Station

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl URL: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000402/ts/space_russia_2.html Original Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 01:25:34
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 2, 2000
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      Forwarded by: fwestra@...
      URL: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000402/ts/space_russia_2.html
      Original Date: Mon, 3 Apr 2000 01:25:34 +0200

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      Sunday April 2 5:30 AM ET

      Russia to Send Crewmen to Mothballed Mir Station

      Reuters Photo

      By Maria Eismont

      MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia is to send a new two-man crew to its aging
      Mir space station this week in a sign that the Kremlin intends to
      pursue its space program despite funding problems and recurring
      technical setbacks.

      Sergei Zalyotin and Alexander Kaleri have been at the Baikonur
      cosmodrome in ex-Soviet Kazakhstan since last week to prepare for the
      launch Tuesday of a mission due to last at least 45 days.

      The main aim is to spruce up the station, unmanned since mid-1999 and
      originally due to be scrapped this year by sending it crashing into
      the atmosphere. Space industry officials now want to make the craft
      viable for future commercial operations.

      Sunday, engineers at the cosmodrome prepared a Soyuz PM-30 spacecraft
      for the flight, trundling it along rails on a train carriage and
      hoisting it upright.

      ``Irrespective of the fact that there have been no piloted flights for
      over a year, the cosmodrome's specialists are working well,'' said
      Nikolai Zelenshchikov, vice-president of Russia's RKK Energiya which
      built Mir.

      President-elect Vladimir Putin is keen to re-establish Mir as a symbol
      of success and know-how inherited from the communist era.

      ``The reasons for maintaining Mir are convincing and we will work to
      put them into action,'' Putin told officials last month at Star City,
      a space training center outside Moscow. He described Mir as ``not a
      prestige project but an essential one.''

      But he was also careful to restate Russia's support for the
      International Space Station (ISS) project, backed by the United
      States, the European Union and Japan.

      Worries Over International Space Station

      Reuters Photo

      The U.S. has expressed concern that Russia's decision to extend Mir's
      life will distract it from proceeding with its commitment to
      contributing to the $60 billion ISS.

      Russia is to launch the living quarters for the international station
      in July, two years behind schedule -- a vital step for sending up the
      first crews to the station later in the year.

      The decision to prolong Mir's working life was taken in January when
      foreign investors came up with $20 million to finance new missions.
      Officials say the craft is still spaceworthy, but the crew will have
      to work hard to make it fit for further activity.

      A Progress M1-1 supply ship docked with Mir last month to replenish
      fuel and water supplies and to restore pressure inside the station,
      which had been slowly leaking air.

      The first section of Mir was launched in 1986, designed to last five

      A group of investors led by a U.S. millionaire set up MirCorp earlier
      this year to develop Mir's commercial potential and announced plans to
      rent the station as a sort of ``space hotel.''

      A MirCorp statement last month said commander Zalyotin and engineer
      Kaleri would work toward adapting Mir for ``operations ranging from
      industrial production and scientific experiments to space tourism and
      advertising in orbit.''

      Some officials remain concerned that Putin's pledge to keep the
      station in operation might prove short-lived.

      ``We have not had a single government that did not promise its
      support,'' Sergei Gorbunov, spokesman for the Russian Aviation and
      Space Agency, told Reuters last month.

      ``But our budget is still not enough and financial questions remain.''

      Copyright � 2000 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

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