Re: BBC: "New Mir mission announced"

Dave Mullenix (djmullen@facstaff.wisc.edu)
Mon, 12 Jul 1999 19:14:26 -0500

LWojack@aol.com wrote:
> 
> In a message dated 6/21/99 8:32:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> ecannon@mail.utexas.edu writes:
> 
> > BBC is reporting that the Russians have announced a "new Mir mission"
> >  in December, after Mir goes uninhabited for a few months.  The story
> >  is online at:
> I find it apalling that Mir is to be destroyed.  If it is to be because of a
> lack of money, then why not sell (money potential) it to the US or to a
> satellite company (like Loral, etc.).  At the very least you could use it as
> a communications relay.

I used to feel the same way until I read about some of the problems. 
First, it costs in the neighborhood of one hundred million dollars a
year to keep Mir manned.  Russia is in the midst of an economic disaster
that makes the great depression look like an economic boom.  They just
don't have the money.

Second, nobody else needs Mir enough to justify spending one hundred
million a year on it.  And the Russians have been looking hard.

Third, once Mir is unmanned, it will probably start to tumble.  It has
computers, sensors and gyros to keep it stable, but they break down all
the time, requiring the cosmonauts to control Mir's attitude manually
until they find the problem and fix it.  No cosmonauts on board, no
repairs and no end to tumbling.

Fourth, if Mir is tumbling, then cosmonauts can't dock with it to get
inside and stabilize it.

Fifth, Mir's orbit is steadily lowering because of drag - if it doesn't
fire its rockets occasionally to reboost its orbit, it will re-enter and
the re-entry will be at some random time and place, such as Los Angeles
on a Tuesday.

Sixth - if Mir is tumbling, then you can't fire the rockets to reboost.


As you can see, Russia doesn't have much room to maneuver here.  Many
are angry that they're going to leave it unmanned even for a short time
because of the possibilities outlined above.

Dave, N9LTD