The final countdown for Mir has started. It has already beein refueled,
and lowered into an orbit at the limits with the atmosphere.
Splashdown in the South Pacific is expected at around 0630 GMT
The last mission of Mir will being six hours before then.
For three times its rockets will fire. bringing the station down
in the ocean halfway between New Zealand and Chile. The first two
will alter its nearly circular orbit to an elliptical one, the third
will begin as the station passes over the Baikonur Cosmodrome in
Most of the eight-module complex should burn up in the atmosphere
but about 1,500 pieces are expected to survive, including a few
the size of a small automobile.
Whatever parts survive reentry into the atmosphere should fall
into a 380,000 square mile swath of unpopulated South Pacific waters.
The US Space Command, the military division that tracks satellites,
estimates it as "2 billion chances to 1 that you're going to
get struck by this thing".
Although the landing is generally regarded as safe, there are 2
possible scenarios that worry the experts:
1. If the rocket engine guiding Mir into the South Pacific quits
halfway through its burn, debris could strike parts of Europe.
2. If the engine quits even sooner, Mir could stay in orbit a lot
longer and land anywhere.
If the engines fail completely, Mir is expected to fall from orbit
on its own March 28, plus or minus 5 days.
Mir space station has been nearly 15 years in orbit (since february
19, 1986) and not only has it lasted more than any other space station,
but also much more than it was designed for. Furthermore, the funding
dropped from the height of the soviet era to the depths of postcommunist
Aging and lack of funding are responsible for the many recents problems
of Mir, from a fire to a collision, to uncountable power losses,
stability losses, contact losses, etc. And for this reason, the
space station is considered a danger. It has been abandoned few
months ago, and it is due to be destroyed in March(tentative
schedule), by burning it in the atmosphere followed by fall of leftovers
in the Pacific Ocean east of Australia.
Before this last journey, however, Mir needs one last refuelling.
A cargo ship will be sent to dock with it, containing the necessary
supplies. This final space randez-vous is being hindered by power
losses and stability problems. If the problems persist, it might
be necessary to use one last human mission.
Russian authorities have long tried to keep Mir alive, while US
space officers were growing increasingly worried that this would
not enable russians to concentrate on the new - joint - project:
the international space station (ISS) being built by several nations
Before deciding for its end, there was also an attempt to transform
Mir in a commercial enterprise, a destination for any purpose, from
turism to science. MirCorp
was created for this purpose, but in vain.
Until its last flight, you can still observe Mir with the naked
eye. The coordinates can be found by
Details about re-entry observation can be found here: