Let’s continue our talk about the Mir orbital station. At first
we did not expect that there would be such a ready response to
this subject, a keen interest shown in it. As a matter of fact,
the discussion we had at our Internet site (our E-mail) involved
those from 98 countries who are not indifferent to the station.
During our today’s coverage we shall be receiving your comments
and options at our Internet site,
our phones in the studio are 215-19-68 and 215-14-47. Ask your
questions to us our quests. We would like to know what your opinions
are about the Mir station. Of no less importance to us are your
considerations concerning our participation in the International
Space Station and the future of our cosmonautics as a whole. So
I wish to remind you in brief of the heated discussion held in
our studio on Wednesday when we started it.

It is already as many as 70% of those who sent us their opinions
to our Internet site are sorry about the Mir station. Let me introduce
the guests of our today’s coverage, participants of our talk to
you. These are Vladimir Alexandrovich Solovyov, Flight Director
of Manned Space Complexes; Nikolai Apollonovich Anfimov, Director
of Rosaviakosmos TsNII Machinebuilding; Gennady Viktorovich Malyshev,
Doctor of Sciences, MAI Professor; Edward Viktorovich Alexeyev,
Doctor of Sciences, Honoured Scientist of the Russian Federation.

First of all, I would like to ask the following question. Is
that right that since our latest broadcast on Wednesday when the
Mir station started falling, it has descended by another 900 m
over the period of two days passed?

Anfimov: It starts falling immediately
after being injected into orbit and flying at such a high altitude.
Sometimes it descends by 200 m a day, in some cases it falls by
400, 500 m. So it is a normal process.
Announcer: It is not for the first
time that we reboosted the Mir station to raise its orbit.
Solovyov: Throughout the whole
15-year period we maintained regularly its specific orbit.
Announcer: Why did you all of
a sudden decide against maintaining the Mir station on orbit? Give
me each your opinion once again and in brief. Why don’t we need
the Mir station anymore in 2001, when the 3rd Millennium starts?
Solovyov: Well, I would not put the question
in the sense that the station is not needed any longer. Unfortunately,
any technology becomes obsolete, it is a matter of common knowledge.
Any equipment can, in principle, be reclaimed. An interesting question
arises in this connection: how much will this refurbishment cost
or, perhaps, it would be more reasonable to reevaluate its cost,
design a brand-new equipment and operate it at higher efficiency?
You see, it might be possible to maintain somehow the Mir station
in a decent state, for example, remove the core module, replace
it with a new one by investing enormous sums of money, billions
of roubles, hundreds of millions US dollars in this undertaking.
But the question arises: Is there any sense in it, whether it is
advisable, is it a paying business? It is my understanding that
all space explorations are aimed at making mankind’s life easier
and better, aren’t they?
Announcer: It is obvious that the decision
has been made and the station splashdown will be implemented. In
this connection, I want all our TV viewers and myself to change
our attitude to this event, because the Mir station over the 15
years of its existence has become a sort of symbol for us, a symbol
of statehood, respect for the country, power and we abandon this
symbol. As You dwell upon the reasons for the station splashdown
during the entire broadcast, I will receive calls from our TV viewers
if possible. Long-distance call. Good afternoon! You are on the
air. What would you like to tell our guests?
TV viewer: Hello! It is Dmitry from Uglich
calling. I watch with keen interest you talking on this subject.
On the whole, I would like to find out if this talks on the air
will lead to any results? Is it possible to save the station? Is
there anything that could be done about it? Thank you.
Announcer: Answer the question? Can the talks
bring to any result? In my understanding, the result means being
aware of what is happening and why it is happening. Perhaps, the
TV viewers means something else by it?
Alexeyev: I’ll tell you what.
You know, it is the second governmental decision on the Mir station
splashdown. The first decision was taken back in 1998; in May 1998
the Mir station was to be destroyed. But the public opinion was
formed against it, just what you mentioned now. It was natural.
Also Yuri Pavlovich Semenov, General Designer, stood his ground
saying that it was not reasonable to destroy the Mir station, that
the station could operate until it reached a 15-year service life.
And the objective confirming that the manned stations could really
exist at least 15 years was understandable. Is the situation any
different now? With the public support available, time is practically
lost. Both General Designer and RSC Energia realize that the situation
cannot be improved, because there is no financial backup in the
amount sufficient to provide a normal financing process. If this
annual financing was approved and 1.5 bn roubles were appropriated
to save the Mir station as was earlier foreseen, then, I think,
this question would not be opened today.


We say that the time is lost, but imply
the money. Have we lost the time regarding engineering capabilities?
My question to You is the following: Have the Mir station passed
that critical point following which it would be impossible to boost
it into higher orbit, even if an enormous sum of money was found
as if with a wave of a wand? And we would say: ‘Yes, we shall invest
again in this station’. I know that you worked on such a program
and you did the corresponding calculations.
Malyshev: The point is that it
is not without reason that the two decisions were taken. Maybe the
first decision was not well thought out, the second decision was
taken. I think that the third one is possible. Now let’s move on
to the engineering capabilities. The cargo vehicle, which is injected
into orbit, instead of braking the station could raise its orbit
so high that station would be able to exist another half a year.
During this a half-year period we could solve the problem of using
stationary plasma engines or any other technology. We can offer
now about seven various technologies for this purpose. There are
some of them, which have not been employed even at the International
Space Station. I mean that the time is not lost yet. The only thing
we need is to have enough courage to turn a plane by 180*’ as our
politician Yevgeny Maximovich Primakov did. It is not too late to
do it. Next I think that there are an awfully lot of politics, stir
about it. Let us suppose that the station lost attitude control.
The Flight Director says: ‘We did so-and-so, therefore, the problem
seems to have been solved.’ Then next, even more responsible person
takes the floor. He says: ‘The station lost control.’ And makes
no comment. Everybody is under the impression that nobody knows
what to do.
Announcer: Did you hear the comments? Has the station
ever lost attitude control before?
Solovyov: Such failures used to
occur at the station and can happen any time, because it is a sophisticated
space technology and it is a normal practise. However, as the Flight
Director I can state that irreversible, as we say, events have been
developing on the station, especially on the central core module,
since last summer or during the last six months. Let us take, for
example, thermal control system. It contains lots of pipelines welded
securely to the body of the station. As these pipelines ‘grow older’
their tightness deteriorates. This tightness (pressure integrity)
could be restored, despite the fact that 80% of the station surface
cannot be repaired on the inside, because they are closed by the
instruments. These instruments should be removed, but it would cost
a pretty sum of money. Just imagine having heat supply, air-conditioning
and other systems in your flat completely altered! Next comes the
problem of the so-called inadvertent passage of commands, which
manifested itself last summer, especially last fall. The remarks
on this inadvertent passage of commands grew rapidly in number.
The term may seem not quite clear to those who are not involved
in space-related activities, but it may happen so that we are sitting
at our desks, flying and at this time the light will go out. What
if the main engine is fired? The main engine will be fired on its
own, some commands will be generated inadvertently and all our people
at MCC along with crew members will be deep in thought and guessing:
‘How is that? How long?’
Announcer: How can we save the lives of those who
are flying on orbit? That is to say, reducing the above mentioned
to a common denominator, one can say that ‘the game is not worth
the candle’ (as our saying runs). Have you any comments?
Anfimov: No comments. I just
want to focus on the two aspects of this problem. The first aspect
concerns establishing proper relationship between what we need to
do to extend the station life (bearing in mind its economic potential)
and what we shall get in return. But the second aspect being ignored
for same reason is our responsibility for a possible environmental
impact upon the Earth in the event of our failure to deorbit the
station in a controlled way. Under international law it is the Russian
Government who is considered responsible for the aftereffects rather
than those currently present in the studio, cosmonauts, people,
RSC Energia.
Announcer: You see, we are receiving the correspondence from
98 countries. On the whole, our foreign correspondents are concerned
about impact area of the Mir station. If we don’t give proper attention
to what is going on, all normal processes, its fall trajectory,
the press will make a stir. For instance, last year it was rumoured
that the station would fall to Paris. Where will the station fall?
Anfimov: As I represent the primary
institute of Rosaviakosmos engaged in the entire complex of the
above problems, it is safe to say that if the station is left to
its own resources, then the station will fall to any location of
the Earth with an equal degree of probability limited by the parallels
of 52* NL and 52* SL. Moscow is outside this impact area. The station
will not fall on Moscow.
Announcer: Will you name any big cities so that
our TV viewers can imagine?
Solovyov: Paris, Rome, London,
Anfimov: The area covers 85%
of the whole Earth.
Alexeyev: Nikolai Apollonovich,
the same situation was with the Saliut station.
Malyshev: Let me answer. The thing
is that we look at the matter only on one side. That is to say,
there is no alternative. We witnessed the fall of the 4 stations:
3 Saliuts, one Skylab. Skylab weighed 77 tons and NASA announced
the competition for those who wished to find fragments. No fragments
were found.
Solovyov: They brought one and
a half tons of the fragments and not the fragments, but rather-
Malyshev: From the Skylab?
Solovyov: Yes, of course.
Malyshev: And, however, no-
Announcer: I am not very good at technical issues
as most of our TV viewers, but I am very concerned about personal
attitudes towards the station: are you sorry about it?
Anfimov: Of course, I am sorry
about it, because it is our pride. It is quite an epoch in the development
of Russia.
Solovyov: It is painful to see
that such a property is going to pieces.
Announcer: Now let’s remember what the main achievements
have been made over the 15 years due to the Mir station.
Alexeyev: May I make a remark
on this occasion?

You may do it after the story. We wish to recall in our memory
what contribution has been made by the Mir station over the last
15 years?

I welcome the guests joining us. This is Pyotr Ilyich Klymuk,
director of Cosmonauts Training Center after Yu.A.Gagarin; Alexandr
Alexandrovich Serebrov, Pilot-Cosmonaut, President of the VAKO
Soyuz, Good afternoon, our honoured guests! So, we have watched
the film and remembered what the achievements had been made on
the Mir station. In this connection, I recalled in my memory what
Konstantin Feoktistov, one of the Mir developers, said on this
occasion. He argued that there had been no accomplishments, that
during the 15 years we had not made any progress; no significant
results had been achieved; all these orbital stations were of
no value. The talk was held here, on the sofa, on Wednesday. Please,
comment on the above words.

Anfimov: Sitting here I might
be very surprised to hear that, although it is not for the first
time that Konstantin Petrovich expresses his opinion in this way-
Announcer: Why? What is his logic?
Anfimov: He should have given
his viewpoint himself. As a matter of fact, an enormous number,
more than 20 thousand experiments have been conducted. In 1997 the
Academy of Sciences along with Rosaviakosmos performed a special
review of the results produced aboard the Mir station; summarized
at many sessions and in different organizations; published a fairly
thick volume. Actually, extensive knowledge has been gained. Some
people think that science gives nothing at all! You see, it is a
narrow-minded view and it pained me to hear these words from are
of the pioneers of space exploration.
Announcer: Alexandr Alexandrovich, You have conducted
a lot of research at the Mir station, haven’t You?
Serebrov: Yes, you are quite right.
I conducted research both at the Mir station, and Saliut station.
Here is one thing I would like to show You. It is the same protein.
The difference is in that the yellow protein was grown by the US
specialists at the Marshall Space Center, while the green protein
was produced by the Russian specialists. Our protein was grown under
microgravity conditions and returned to Earth. All that was conducted
with my participation. You can see it with your own eyes. No comments
are needed. It is just one example which argues against the statement
of Konstantin Petrivich.
Announcer: That means that the Mir Station has been
of see.
Serebrov: Enormous number of new
Announcer: We say that the station has depleted
its service life, hasn’t it?
Klymuk: I shall tell you what.
Firstly, as Feoktistov sees it. Of course, it is regrettable to
hear all this from Feoktistov, he is cosmonaut himself; he flew
one time and got training for the second flight at the Cosmonauts
Training Center. What is most striking, he is one of the orbital
station developers, developer of the first orbital station. I also
got training and one of the pioneers who visited the first orbital
station. We have done a lot of work. Serebrov just showed the protein.
This example clearly demonstrates the value of space experiments
for our economy. Secondly, I would like to add the following. It
is all very well to argue, when you are a passive contemplator.
You can discuss everything and claim that know all. But when you
are directly involved in work, then you must be responsible for
it. As our cosmonauts undergo training at the center, I bear responsibility
for each person as the Center Director. Of course, I want new flights
and the orbital station flying on orbit and continuation of space-related
activities for the benefit of people on Earth. However, we also
must feel concern about crew safety on the station and here is just-
Announcer: Let’s focus on what justifies the Mir
splashdown. What is the most crucial point for you, human safety?
Klymuk: It is very important
for me. It is true, the station has been flying long enough. We
must understand clearly the following: what if the station control
failed? Let’s assume that the station will be in a spinning mode.
If a spinning mode is more than 1 degree per second, we shall not
be able at the Center to prepare crew for docking and cosmonauts
will not dock with it. As Nikolai Apollonovich told, theoretically,
it can fall to any location on our planet. We must assume full responsibility
for it. Many cosmonauts would like the station to be flying as long
as possible. But I repeat again that we must assume full responsibility
for it. One may say to a Cosmonaut: ‘Yes, the station will fly’.
As the Training Center Director, I must bear responsibility for
the people I am training and for where the station will fall. Not
only government, but also-
Announcer: I wonder whether our TV viewers are sympathetic
to what has been said. Good morning, you are on the air. Speak,
TV viewer: Hullo! Good afternoon!
Announcer: Our panelists speak openly about the
station splashdown.
TV viewer: In connection with this proposal, Mr
Kiselev, the MAI Professor puts forward his proposal to provide
moon landing rather than to land it on Earth or sink.
Announcer: Why?
TV viewer: Here is the article in the Soviet Russia
newspaper detailing his reasonable statements.
Announcer: Can you answer, why? It would inevitably
entail huge expenses. Why should we go to such expenses?
TV viewer: What expenses?
Announcer: It seems to me rather ridiculous to send
the Mir to Moon. In addition, it is pretty expensive. It’s no use.
Anfimov: There is no such a launch
vehicle that could do it today.
Announcer: But the proposal was made, wasn’t it?
Let’s listen to more opinions of the TV viewers. Speak, please.
You are on the air.
TV viewer: Good afternoon. The urgent problem in
this connection is of ecological character. Can we carry out the
station splashdown in the ocean or not? What will be an environmental
Announcer: On Pacific Ocean, in area between New
Zealand and Australia. As far as I know, this area was chosen, wasn’t
Anfimov: Between Australia and
South America. What I can say is that a huge amount of space equipment
was sunk in the ocean. But the total quantity is 100 times as much.
The Mir Station is not going to fall as the whole structure, it
will be split into an enormous quantity of fragments spreading over
a distance of 6,000 km. They occupy a wide area-
Announcer: How much stuff has stuck to it during
so many years?
Soloviyov: You see, after the burning
in atmosphere it will be ‘absolutely sterile’.
Announcer: Within Internet many users put forward
unconventional proposals too. Let’s look at them. Here they are.
To boost the Mir station into a 800-km orbit and the station will
be in perpetual motion.
Anfimov: No, I don’t think it
makes any sense. No launch vehicle is available now to reboost it
to raise the orbit as high as 800 km. Let’s recall the case with
the Saliut-7 station. It was reboosted into higher orbit (460 km)
and had to fly by estimate from 8 to 20 years, but fell to Earth
4 years later. The atmospheric conditions are changeable. Flying
at a 800-km orbit will not last endlessly and for this purpose huge
amount of fuel would be required. Let’s take, for instance, the
Progress cargo vehicle docked now to the station for its splashdown.
If the Progress vehicle was used to raise the orbit, it would raise
by 60 km only. In order to lift the station through so many km,
a lot of space vehicles would be required, which are not yet available.
Soloviyov: Excuse my interruption,
just a few words. You see, the point is that the Mir station requires
permanent supervision even if it is reboosted into a 800-km orbit.
It is necessary to occasionally monitor its flight. In what shape
is it? How will it be returned to Earth? It seems to me that our
descendants will hardly be very glad to get such a "gift".
What is more, they will not be able to manage it. We are here having
a thorough knowledge of the controlled object (i.e. the Mir station),
can foresee a lot of options detailing its splashdown. We can sink
it safely, effectively. We are very concerned by it ourselves. Consider
a great number of off-nominal situations. If we hand over this safety
problem to the next generation 3-5 years later, I am afraid, this
generation will not be able to cope with this problem. We must bear
responsibility for what we have done ourselves.

Continued in Part 2