A Mir drop in the Ocean

No reports of damage as space era ends in blazing trails
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The Independent Online

The space station Mir blazed to earth into the South Pacific today, ending its 15-year space voyage with spectacular trails across the sky.

The space station Mir blazed to earth into the South Pacific today, ending its 15-year space voyage with spectacular trails across the sky.

There was no report of any land area being hit after it disintegrated and fell to earth just before 6am GMT.

"The Mir has finished its triumphant flight," a Mission Control announcer said. Blazing wreckage was seen from Fiji hurtling across the sky.

David Templeman, executive director of Emergency Management Australia, said: "Splashdown has occurred in that area where it was predicted. We don't have any report of any other damage at this stage."

Russian space officials were sombre at the end of a space era, but exuberant over what they characterized as a flawless achievement.

"It has been an exemplary operation, and our experts have not made a mistake in any single step, not in a millimeter. The world has become convinced that Russia knows not only how to build spacecraft but how to control them and how to forecast their flight. Russia will remain a great space power," said Yuri Koptev, the head of the Russian Aerospace agency.

The spacecraft's descent began after its eight engines thrusted according to commands issued by Mir's onboard computer at 00.31 GMT, when Mir was just below the Equator over the Indian Ocean.

A second impulse successfully took place an hour and a half later as Mir crossed over East Africa. Both thrusts, known as burns, were aimed at slowing Mir's speed and bringing it into its final pre-crash orbit.

The final burst plunged the station into the atmosphere over the Pacific and into the waters between Australia and Chile, a zone that centers roughly around 40 degrees south latitude and 160 degrees west longitude, slightly different than previously indicated. That put the center of the Mir sinking about 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) northwest of the planned site.

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