Countries set 90 minute emergency plan over Mir

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The Independent Online

Australian and New Zealand emergency officials will have no more than 90 minutes to respond if the scrapping of Russia's Mir space station goes awry, officials said.

Australian and New Zealand emergency officials will have no more than 90 minutes to respond if the scrapping of Russia's Mir space station goes awry, officials said.

Some commercial flights are being delayed to avoid any chance they could be hit by debris from the station.

"We'll have 60 to 90 minutes from when the Russians give the final impulse to when it gets back into the atmosphere and starts burning up," said Brian Flanagan, a spokesman for Emergency Management Australia, the federal agency monitoring the event and coordinating responses.

From a Canberra nerve centre, EMA's Mir National Warning task force is coordinating a small army of officials from aviation, shipping, meteorological and defence agencies should Mir fall short of its projected splashdown in the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand and Chile.

EMA also has an official in the Russian mission control center outside Moscow.

The re-entry process is expected to take six hours and if all goes well will see the bits of Mir that don't break up in the atmosphere hit the Pacific Ocean at 0620-0630 GMT Friday.

Although the station's remnants is expected to hit the ocean about 1,240 miles east of Australia, the EMA has put aviation and maritime authorities on alert.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority said a number of flights may be using airspace that would fall within Mir's reentry path.

Spokesman Peter Gibson said air traffic authorities will advise any flights that need to take evasive action.

A spokeswoman for Qantas Airways said the Australian flag carrier had one flight from Sydney to Buenos Aires that may have to be rescheduled.

New Zealand authorities said five jets that were to have been travelling from New Zealand to Pacific nations or the United States also would be delayed for about one hour to avoid possible collisions with fragments of Mir.

EMA executive director David Templeman said that he is confident the splashdown will go according to plan.

"This is a controlled event," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio. "The issue is that we're dealing with a very significant management-controlled situation here, compared with something just falling out of the sky."

Most of the 135-metric-ton (148.5 tons) satellite will burn up in the atmosphere, but some 1,500 fragments - with a total weight of up to 25 metric tonnes (27.5 tons) - are expected to make it to the Earth's surface.

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