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Last rendezvous for Mir

Mir: End of an era approaching  

MOSCOW, Russia -- An unmanned Russian cargo craft has docked with Mir, starting the countdown to the destruction of the Soviet-built space station.

Space officials said the Progress vessel, which is ferrying fuel and oxygen supplies to Mir, docked without problems at 8:33 a.m. (0533 GMT) on Saturday.

The extra fuel on board the unmanned Progress will be used to fire Mir's thrusters and push the 140-tonne station down toward Earth for discarding in a remote area in the Pacific Ocean.

Russian mission control has said the 15-year-old Mir's scheduled re-entry will take place on March 6.

On Friday -- the day before the Progress was due to dock with Mir -- Russia reassured the world that ditching the troubled space station would be safe.

"The ditching of the station is planned to take place in the open sea, in the basin of the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, far away from sea and air routes," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The Foreign Ministry said the start of the operation to bring the space lab down would begin between February 20 and 25.

The co-ordinates given by Russia for the splash down of what remains of Mir after it has torn through the earth's atmosphere put the site at around 3,000 km (1,900 miles) east of the southern end of New Zealand.

The statement said most of Mir would fall apart around 70 to 90 km (44 to 56 miles) above the earth. The time between entering the atmosphere and crashing into the sea would be around 30 minutes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Beginning of the end for Mir
January 24, 2001
Mir cargo ship launch rescheduled
January 19, 2001
'Controlled' Mir re-entry promised
December 27, 2000

Mir Space Station
Russian Space Industry

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