Mir will end its 14-year mission in February

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The Independent Online

The space station Mir will be ditched in the Pacific Ocean in February after operating for 14 years, the Russian cabinet said yesterday.

The space station Mir will be ditched in the Pacific Ocean in February after operating for 14 years, the Russian cabinet said yesterday.

"Nothing can last for ever, not even Mir," said Yuri Koptev, the head of Russia's space agency, warning that it would be unsafe to keep it in orbit any longer. He said the cabinet had decided that Mir would be sent to the bottom of the Pacific, 900 to 1,200 miles east of Australia, around 28 February.

Russia has been reluctant to bring Mir down because it is a symbol of the Soviet achievements in space, but there is no money to maintain it and anattempt to find private investors failed. Mr Koptev said tests and maintenance were needed to keep the station orbiting safely and these had not been carried out.

Mir, a cluster of six modules, was launched in 1986 and was originally expected to stay in space for three to five years. Once it has gone to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, the Russian space programme will have no projects wholly its own.

Instead, Moscow will concentrate its limited resources on the 16-nation international space station, which uses Russian technology developed on Mir. The new space station has suffered delays because of the failure to launch Russian modules.

The country's experts say that it is impossible to predict exactly where the fragments of the 130-ton Mir will fall, although they can determine a general target area. Anatoly Kiselyov, chief of the Khrunichev centre which built Mir, said there could be no guarantee that all pieces of the station would fall into the sea.

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