[FPSPACE] AP Story on Mir comm-loss
Dwayne Allen Day
Tue, 26 Dec 2000 15:35:06 -0500 (EST)
[I take exception to calling Mir "accident-prone," since the last real
problem was years ago.]
Mir Radio Contact Restored
By Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, December 26, 2000; 9:10 AM
MOSCOW Russian ground controllers lost contact for nearly 20 hours with
the Mir space station before re-establishing communication Tuesday,
allaying fears the accident-prone,140-ton vessel might have spun
dangerously out of control.
It was the latest mishap for the nearly 15-year-old space station, which
the Russian government reluctantly had decided to bring down in a
controlled descent in late February.
Mission Control's last contact with the Mir had been at 6:40 p.m. (10:40
a.m. EST) Monday, said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Mission
Control. Several successive attempts to restore the link later Monday
failed, but on Tuesday afternoon, ground controllers managed to briefly
link up with the Mir.
A second attempt later Tuesday was a complete success, said Vera
Medvedkova, another Mission control spokesman. Controllers were able to
maintain full contact for 17 minutes, the complete planned time of the
radio linkup, she said.
"It's not clear yet what has caused the malfunction," Lyndin said.
He said that the information received during the first hookup showed that
the station had not lost pressure calming initial fears that the loss of
communications signaled that the station was spinning out of control and
could crash to Earth. But he did not give any other details.
Normally, such communications problems are sparked by computer
glitches. The loss of radio contact could signal a problem with the
Observers have been worried about the Mir's safety for a long
time. However, after a terrifying fire and near-disastrous collision with
an unmanned cargo ship in 1997 followed by a series of computer glitches
and breakdowns, the Mir had been running relatively smoothly this year.
The Mir had only one, 73-day manned mission this year. The cosmonauts
returned safely in June, raising official optimism about the prospects of
keeping it in orbit even without a crew.
But Russian space officials said it was necessary to dump the Mir because
experts could no longer guarantee the safety of its operation.
"We cannot continue this game ... which I call Russian roulette," Russian
Aerospace Agency chief Yuri Koptev said in November as he tried to explain
the decision to discard the Mir. Many considered the decision a blow to
The Russian Cabinet's plan is to crash the Mir into the Pacific 900 to
1,200 miles east of Australia on Feb. 27-28. The decision followed failed
attempts to find private investors to keep the station operative.
Officials have said Russia should concentrate its funds on the new
international space station instead of the Mir something the U.S. space
agency NASA has been urging for years. NASA is leading the 16-nation
international project, which has suffered repeated delays because of
funding problems for Russian modules.
The government had planned to dump the Mir this spring because of funding
problems but extended its time aloft after the Netherlands-based MirCorp
signed a lease agreement on the station and promised to pay for its
While MirCorp financed a mission to the Mir earlier this year, it failed
to meet other commitments, forcing the government to divert funds that had
been allocated to the new international station to maintain the Mir,
officials said. Energiya has a 60-percent stake in MirCorp and the
remainder belongs to private investors.