Russia Restores Contact with Mir Space Station : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday December 26 9:25 AM ET Russia Restores Contact with Mir Space Station

Reuters Photo

By Anatoly Vereshchyagin

KOROLYOV, Russia (Reuters) - Russian space officials restored contact with the Mir space station (news - web sites) on Tuesday after a fraught 24 hours that sparked fears the aging orbiter could crash to earth in populated areas.

Flight control outside Moscow lost contact with Mir around 3 p.m. on Monday and only re-established the link on Tuesday afternoon after several failed attempts.

``There has been communication and now we are analyzing the data,'' a Russian space official who did not give his name told reporters at Mission Control outside Moscow.

``We will be able to tell you in the next one hour and 20 minutes what the problem was,'' he said.

Yury Semyonov, head of the Energiya corporation that operates Mir, said the orbiter's solar panels appeared to be the cause of the problem. He dismissed talk of a crisis.

``I would not stir up passions over this situation. During our contact we managed to receive telemetric (electrical instrument) data,'' he told Reuters after contact was briefly restored at an earlier attempt.

``We have created a specialist group to work on analyzing them. It's probably caused by a problem with the energy supply'' on board Mir.''

Mir was once the pride of the Russian space program, with a host of endurance records. But Moscow decided last month to dump the increasingly accident-prone vessel in late February -- shortly after its 15th birthday.

Russia needs to maintain contact with the 130-ton station, which has had no crew for months, if it is to orchestrate a controlled re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

Ditching Mir Is A Difficult Task

Reuters Photo Ditching Mir into the Pacific Ocean between 900-1,200 miles off Australia requires guiding the station out of orbit to ensure the bulk of its debris avoids populated areas.

News agencies reported that if ground control failed to make contact with Mir a rescue mission could be sent to ensure the craft fell safely into the Pacific Ocean.

That could involve cosmonauts Salizhan Sharipov and Pavel Vinogradov, who are currently completing training.

Even before the current crisis, Russian space officials had warned that on re-entry some Mir debris could strike land.

Chunks weighing some 1,500 pounds would hurtle back to Earth with enough force to smash through six feet of reinforced concrete, Yuri Koptev, head of Russia's space agency, said in November.

The loss of contact with Mir highlighted the safety fears which prompted the Russian government to pull the financial plug on the station that made Russia a world leader in long-term manned space flight.

After a spate of incidents, including a near-catastrophic collision with a cargo vessel, an on-board fire and a series of computer failures which left Mir spinning aimlessly through space, U.S. politicians called for U.S. astronauts to be banned from the craft.

Under intense U.S. pressure, Russia's cash-strapped space program agreed to focus on the $60 billion International Space Station (news - web sites), a 16-nation venture which uses much of Mir's technology. But the state-of-the-art project has itself suffered a series of delays and glitches since its launch in 1998.

On Tuesday, cosmonaut Yuri Gidzenko had to manually dock a cargo vessel for the second time in less than two months. A blurry camera forced him to guide in another Progress cargo craft through a window on November 18.

-- Carl Jenkins (, December 26, 2000

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