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NASA Chooses Edwards Air Force Base as Atlantis Landing SiteAired February 20, 2001 - 2:53 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Miles O'Brien joins us now to tell us, finally, some good news for the Atlantis astronauts, who might be getting seasick up there.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they are heading home, although it's not quite home. They're headed to Edwards Air Force Base even as we speak. The weather just wasn't working for NASA these past three days now at the Kennedy Space Center.
They have three options. Their No. 1 choice, of course, is Kennedy Space Center. That was not good today because of clouds and rain.
Their No. 2 choice is Edwards Air Force Base. It didn't look so good at the start of the day, but sure enough, the weather has cleared there in the high desert and the Space Shuttle Atlantis is headed in this direction as we speak. Landing time expected 3:33 p.m. Eastern Time; that's 12:33 p.m. local time.
The third choice would have been the White Sands Space Harbor, as they call it. NASA doesn't like to go there. They've done that only once, but nevertheless, they were ready, just in case, to bring these people home after 13 days and a successful mission.
Now, I know you know what an important day this is in the Russian space program history, right? Happy birthday to Mir: 15 years ago today.
ALLEN: And apparently, not everyone is happy about the Mir going to be falling down soon. There was a protest today in Moscow we have some video of.
What's going on with that?
O'BRIEN: Well, Mir is coming down. Middle of March is the way it looks right now. They don't have an exact date just yet. Let's call it the Ides of March for the sake of argument here. March 15, thereabouts.
And there are a lot of nationalists in Russia who are upset about this. This is the right-wing contingent of the Russian Parliament would be in sync with this group. As you can see, the sickle and hammer.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: What do they want? What do they want?
O'BRIEN: Keep it going. But it's $250 million a year to do just that, and they're a little short on rubles at the moment, and thus, they have participated in the International Space Station. They feel they're a junior partner in that.
Now, let's take a look -- we got some great animation the other day from our friends at Analytical Graphics on what might happen when Mir comes down. Let's roll this tape here.
And actually, that's the wrong tape. We've got a shot there of Destiny being docked to the space station. We might as well skip that one, and let's go to the map on where Mir is headed, shall we?
Mir is headed to -- if you can put that up -- this is the spot right here. So the halfway -- there's New Zealand, there's Chile, and that's about the 51 degree parallel there, and that's about 147 degrees and that right there is what they're aiming for. It's a big swathe of Pacific Ocean.
The good news is it's a big target.
ALLEN: And how much control do they have over this -- when and how and where?
O'BRIEN: Well, it's hard to say. No one's ever brought anything this big down in a controlled fashion, so your guess is as good as mine.
Let's take a look at Mir and you can get a sense of what they're dealing with. It weighs 300,000 pounds. To give you some comparison, Skylab weighed about 200,000 pounds, so it's the heaviest thing ever to come in, and it's got about six school-bus-sized modules. Each of those is a school bus right there.
So you can imagine when it comes down, with all that tonnage, it's really unclear as to what will survive. These wings will probably split off, and if we can get that animation up and if it's there, I can show it to you, but -- OK, let's show that animation. You can see what potentially might happen, Analytical Graphics giving us that idea.
And let's bring the animation if we can. We don't have it. We don't have that animation.
WATERS: We have some polar bear video, if that would help.
O'BRIEN: Hopefully it won't hit any polar bears.
In any case, Mir, on its 15th anniversary, has logged 2.25 billion miles on the odometer. It's time to turn in this old vehicle.
O'BRIEN: Yes, as a matter of fact, if you stretch that distance out, it would be from the Earth to Uranus.
ALLEN: Well, thank you. Thank you, trivia man.
O'BRIEN: We'll leave it at that. There's a little -- there's a little space fact we can share with you. We will keep you posted, of course, on Mir's "descension," OK?
ALLEN: Please do. We will stay out of the way.
WATERS: And thanks for all that video. Appreciate it.
O'BRIEN: We try. We did try.
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