The Mir space station has been abandoned after a career which began with the launch of the core module in February 1986. The final habitation crew landed safely in Kazakhstan on 28 August.

Although another crew may be launched to prepare the space station for its de-orbiting early next year, the craft may not be in a fit state to be manned again due to potential malfunctions, such as the loss of cabin pressure or control.

A Progress tanker will also be required to perform the final de-orbit burn. If Mir goes out of control and these plans prove impossible, it will make a natural, uncontrolled re-entry and may shed debris over populated regions.

Meanwhile, the US Government General Accounting Office has told NASA that it should produce a full contingency plan for the International Space Station (ISS) should Russia be unable to fulfil its ISS commitments. It is NASA, however, that now holds up the schedule, with Shuttle assembly missions next year delayed (Flight International, 1-7 September).

Source: Flight International