Emergency Crew to Go to Mir after New Energy Failures

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Emergency Crew to Go to Mir after New Energy Failures

MOSCOW, Dec 30, 2000 -- (Agence France Presse) Russia will probably send an emergency crew to the Mir space station because of continuing power failures, an informed source told Interfax news agency on Friday.

Ground control on Wednesday lost radio contact with the nearly 15-year orbiter because one of its solar energy panels lost power, following a nearly 24-hour communications breakdown earlier in the week, according to the source.

The situation is back under control now, but space chiefs have decided that the 140-ton unmanned space craft should be switched from auto-pilot to manual.

In early January, the Russian Space Agency will decide on the dispatch of a crew to Mir, which is due to be destroyed and dropped into the Pacific Ocean in late February.

A two-man team has been preparing for a mission to ready the craft for ditching.

Russia's space chief said Wednesday that the glitches affecting Mir confirmed that the pioneering space lab had to be destroyed to prevent any accident.

"The equipment onboard is in such a state that we have no right to take any risks. This is a question of Russia's responsibility towards the international community," Russian Space Agency chief Yury Koptyev told journalists.

Mir fell silent for the first time ever on Monday, sending shockwaves through the Russian space agency already hardened from handling the numerous calamities that have plagued the space station.

In the worst year, 1997, a fire broke out on board, two of the craft's oxygen generators broke down, it collided with a supply module and there were problems with the air-conditioning system.

After long deliberations, Moscow decided this month that the pioneering craft -- originally built to last no more than five years -- will be allowed to fall into the southeastern part of the Pacific Ocean between February 27 and 28.

When it does come down, most of Mir is expected to burn up on re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, the rest plunging into the sea. ((c) 2000 Agence France Presse)


-- Carl Jenkins (somewherepress@aol.com), December 30, 2000

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