New Zealand: Fishing Boats Moving Into Mir's Crash Zone : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Boats Diverted From Mir Crash Site

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Maritime authorities in New Zealand tried Thursday to divert about 30 fishing vessels in an area of the South Pacific where pieces of Russia's Mir space station are expected to crash.

The New Zealand Maritime Authority had failed to contact any of the vessels, which moved in to the crash area while chasing Albacore fish. The boats are based in American Samoa.

''We're trying to chase them right now because they appear to be concentrated right on the point where the Russians are aiming,'' said Pat Helm, an official in the prime minister's office.

Most of Mir is expected to burn up in the atmosphere during re-entry, but up to 27.5 tons of debris are expected to reach the ocean's surface Friday in an oblong debris zone centered in the South Pacific about 2,500 miles east of New Zealand.

Bits of metal, some weighing several hundred pounds, are expected to be scattered over a wide area.

General warnings had been issued to ships in the region for several weeks, Helm said. It would be surprising if the fishing vessels did not know about the Mir, but authorities had to contact them to ensure they were aware, he said.

New Zealand authorities know only some of the vessels' radio call signs and were trying to determine the names and radio identifications of the others, Helm said.

''We're trying all sorts of different ways to contact them,'' he said.

Several merchant vessels were also sailing through the impact area and efforts were being made to contact them, he said.

AP-NY-03-21-01 2200EST< 

-- Rachel Gibson (, March 21, 2001



Thu Mar 22, 12:52 pm

Mir On Its Way Down

Russia's Mir space station is in the final hours of its life. The craft has crossed the point of no-return, and is scheduled to plunge into the ocean between New Zealand and Chile early Friday between 1:20 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. Tons of debris will hurtle into the ocean minutes later at speeds fast enough to crash through six feet of reinforced concrete.

Airlines plan to alter the flight times of up to six transpacific flights to avoid the splashdown, but New Zealand officials said they were powerless to make 26 tuna boats move out of the way of the drop zone.

Russian ground control says the 136-ton craft is cruising around the earth with its solar panels turned to the sun to give the veteran station the much-needed power to keep it in place for the final push-down.

Mir lost 4 kilometers of altitude in the last 24 hours, and is orbiting the earth at 135 miles. It is now impossible to reverse its fall.

Engineers will fire a first engine burst at 7:33 p.m. EST, a second at 9 p.m. EST, and a final one at midnight. They will slow the craft and send it steeply down to earth.

Vladimir Lobachyov, the head of ground control says Mir will disappear from radar screens around the world during the last 40 minutes of its life, and neither Russia nor any other country has facilities that can monitor its final descent. Mir's solar panels and antennae will burn up first as it re-enters the earth's atmosphere. The craft will then break up into some 1,500 fragments weighing 20-40 tons in all. Super-heated chunks of the space craft that survive re-entry temperatures of 2,730 degrees Fahrenheit should crash into the Pacific between 1:20 a.m. and 1:30 a.m. EST.

Officials say the debris will fall away from shipping lanes and inhabited areas. A Russian-U.S. expedition in the South Pacific says it has two aircraft lined up to fly to a point southeast of Tonga where they hope to see Mir's red-hot re-entry. Newspapers have reported that the expedition is charging $10,000 per passenger.

-- Rachel Gibson (, March 22, 2001.

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