The Russian Government has confirmed that the Mir space station will be de-orbited in February/March and will make a controlled re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Since the launch of the first core module 15 years ago, the station has grown to weigh 137t, and has been visited by 104 Russian and foreign astronauts, and permanently inhabited for two weeks short of 10 years from 1989.

A Soyuz U launch on 18 January will carry a Progress tanker craft to Mir to provide fuel for the the de-orbit burn. Only one Progress craft should be needed for the de-orbit, but another could be launched. A Soyuz TM emergency cosmonaut crew will be on stand-by.

Meanwhile, Citizen Explorer Dennis Tito, who was scheduled for a mission to Mir, has been unofficially added to the Soyuz TM crew pending confirmation by the Russian Interdepartmental Com-mission and NASA. Soyuz TM will be launched to the International Space Station in April to swap the original Expedition One Soyuz craft with a new one.

Source: Flight International