The decision to scrap the Mir space station will be made by the Russian government, Sergei Gorbunov, press secretary to the head of the Russian Aerospace Agency, told Interfax. Adding RAA head Yuri Koptev considers Mir ballast.
Since the government is liable to third parties for the safety of the station's flight, the decision to close down Mir and dump it in a safe area of the Pacific Ocean is naturally the prerogative of the government. The government is also responsible for financing the end to Mir's 15-year flight, he said. It will cost 600 million rubles to dump the station, he said.
However, to begin with a decision on the need to cease use of the station should be submitted to the RAA by the board of aerospace chief designers. Only after this document is discussed by the RAA will it be submitted to the government for approval.
According to Gorbunov, on Tuesday the board of chief designers was unable to reach a final decision on the fate of Mir and only dealt with technical issues relating to preparing the launch of a Progress M-43 cargo craft and the first long-term Russian-American expedition to the International Space Station. Although the state of Mir was debated.
Gorbunov said that a decision will have to be taken, as funding for operating the station and maintaining proper long-term expeditions is not available. Around $200-250 million a year is needed, he said.
We will soon have to seriously consider the future of Mir to draw up proposals to submit to the government, either at the board of chief designers, or at the RAA collegium, said Gorbunov.
January 1999, the Russian government issued a resolution giving Energiya exclusive rights to use the resources of Mir and continue operating it for commercial purposes without budget funding.
According to Gorbunov, an effort was made to find Western investors, with around $1 million being raised. However, no flights to the station were made with commercial money. The efforts are continuing, but time is running out as the station's orbit is continually lowering. It seems serious business people have been found who are developing commercial projects. However, said Gorbunov, no cash has been received, all agreements and protocols of intent are only paper.
Gorbunov said the state owes Energiya and its partners around 600 million rubles for 1997-1998, but Energiya has already taken a Progress freighter, Soyuz TM pilotable craft and a launch rocket from the ISS program. But for Energiya returning these systems will be difficult. At the same time, their value is equal to what the state owes Energiya, said Gorbunov.
He said the flight of the world first space tourist, American Denis Tito, to Mir February 2001 is unlikely to take place. An emergency crew will go to prepare Mir for being brought down. It will not be a commercial expedition. Specialists will be needed on the station, and Tito is unlikely to be useful to the crew in that capacity, said Gorbunov.
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Cameron Eyes Mir Adventure
Moscow (Interfax) Sept. 29, 2000
James Cameron, director of the Oscar- winning hit movie Titanic, is planning a space journey up to the Russian space station Mir.
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