Rising cash toll may bring Mir down to earth

The Mir space station may finally meet its end next year, brought down not by technical problems but the sheer cost of running it, Russia's deputy finance minister has hinted.

As the three astronauts on board the orbiting station prepared for a spacewalk tomorrow to restore power and make repairs, Vladimir Petrov, first deputy finance minister said: "The task is pressing. We must remove Mir from orbit. This will be done next year." He added, "You see, there have already been a series of breakdowns, one failure, another failure."

However, Valery Ryumin, who heads Russia's co-operation on Mir with the United States' space agency, Nasa, said: "A bureaucrat [Petrov] can say whatever nonsense he wants. I don't even want to hear this nonsense."

Mr Petrov's comments were made to reporters on Tuesday for release last night, to coincide with a government discussion of the 1998 budget, which will be sent to the Russian parliament by next Tuesday. That leaves the distinct possibility that the comments were part of a bargaining plan to try to reduce spending.

Exact figures on Mir's operating costs are not available, and observers say Russian military control of some aspects of the programme make it hard to calculate.

But Mir does earn valuable foreign currency: the US agreed to pay Russia $478m (pounds 300m), mostly for Mir-related activities, under a December 1993 agreement to last until 1998. The European Space Agency (ESA) paid $50m for two joint missions involving Mir in 1994 and 1995.

Russian space officials have said they intend to keep Mir in orbit at least until 2000, and Russian policymakers have not previously advocated its retirement.

If and when it is abandoned, it will eventually fall to earth. Though most of it should burn up in the atmosphere, large pieces are expected to survive.

Mir, launched in 1986, is the last element left from the Soviet space programme.

On 25 June, the station experienced the worst accident in its history when a supply ship collided with it, depressurising one of the six modules. It has suffered a series of smaller failures in recent weeks.

Russia is participating in the creation of an international space station, the first segment of which is scheduled for a June 1998 launch.

Yesterday afternoon, ground control said everything on Mir was fine: the station had regained its precise alignment with the Sun, recharged its solar batteries and switched on its main oxygen generator.

n A teenage Irish radio ham yesterday made contact with Michael Foale, the British-born astronaut on board Mir. Revere Richardson, 19, from Kilkenny, said Mr Foale was in "very, very good humour indeed" and showing no sign of strain. He spoke to the space station on a VHF link from his "radio shack-stroke-bedroom" as it passed over Ireland.

News
Denny Miller in 1959 remake of Tarzan, the Ape Man
people
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl despairs during the arena auditions
tvX Factor review: Drama as Cheryl and Simon spar over girl band

News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
news
News
i100Exclusive interview with the British analyst who helped expose Bashar al-Assad's use of Sarin gas
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Angel Di Maria celebrates his first goal for Manchester United against QPR
Football4-0 victory is team's first win under new manager Louis van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
art
News
newsIn short, yes
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script
tv'Thomas comes right up to the abyss', says the actor
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris claimed the top spot in this week's single charts
music
Sport
BoxingVideo: The incident happened in the very same ring as Tyson-Holyfield II 17 years ago
News
Groundskeeper Willie has backed Scottish independence in a new video
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor poses the question of whether we are every truly alone in 'Listen'
tvReview: Possibly Steven Moffat's most terrifying episode to date
News
i100
Life and Style
Cara Delevigne at the TopShop Unique show during London Fashion Week
fashion
News
The life-sized tribute to Amy Winehouse was designed by Scott Eaton and was erected at the Stables Market in Camden
peopleBut quite what the singer would have made of her new statue...
Sport
England's Andy Sullivan poses with his trophy and an astronaut after winning a trip to space
sport
News
peopleThe actress has agreed to host the Met Gala Ball - but not until 2015
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and i...

Teaching Assistant for KS1 & KS2 Huddersfield

£50 - £65 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: We are looking for flexible and...

Primary Teaching Supply

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS2 Supply Teacher r...

Year 1/2 Teacher

£130 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Qualified KS1 Teacher required,...

Day In a Page

These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week
The fall of Rome? Cash-strapped Italy accused of selling its soul to the highest bidder

The fall of Rome?

Italy's fears that corporate-sponsored restoration projects will lead to the Disneyfication of its cultural heritage
Glasgow girl made good

Glasgow girl made good

Kelly Macdonald was a waitress when she made Trainspotting. Now she’s taking Manhattan
Sequins ahoy as Strictly Come Dancing takes to the floor once more

Sequins ahoy as Strictly takes to the floor once more

Judy Murray, Frankie Bridge and co paired with dance partners
Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Wearable trainers and other sporty looks

Alexander Wang pumps it up at New York Fashion Week
The landscape of my imagination

The landscape of my imagination

Author Kate Mosse on the place that taught her to tell stories