The Russian Space Agency Rosaviakosmos has announced its intention to de-orbit the MIR space station in to the Pacific Ocean 1500-2000 km east of Australia between 26 and 28 February 2001. The 130 ton station has been orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 380 km and an inclination relative to the equator of 51.6 degrees. MIR was launched on 19 February 1986 and has been in orbit for over 14 years, completing more than 83,000 revolutions of the planet, achieving many scientific goals, and laying the foundations for the International Space Station and a permanent manned presence in space. It has been home to astronauts from many nations including the UK’s Helen Sharman in May 1991 and Michael Foale in May 1997.

Although MIR has been unmanned since the summer of 2000, a new crew is expected to rendezvous with the complex in January to prepare the station for its fiery return to Earth. In addition to setting up the flight systems for final re-entry, the crew are expected to begin the task of disconnecting cables running between the main module and the Kvant, Kvant 2, Kristall, Spektr and Priroda modules, and remove fixtures between hatches to encourage the aerodynamic break-up of the station. The Pacific Ocean region has been chosen for disposal as it represents the largest area with low population density that the ground track of MIR passes over, the path of the station above the Earth extending as far north as London and as far south as the Falkland Islands.

The station can be observed with the naked eye. NASA maintains a website which predicts when MIR will pass over your part of the world BNSC will be monitoring the MIR re-entry through its involvement in the Inter Agency Debris Committee (IADC), and the European Space Agency (ESA).