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Press Release
Media Contact: 800-787-7223 or press@space-frontier.org
Russian President Yeltsin Urged to Keep Mir Space Station in Orbit

Los Angeles, CA, February 19, 1998 – On the twelfth anniversary of the launch of Russia's Mir space station, the Space Frontier Foundation called on Russian President Boris Yeltsin to reverse plans to destroy the station next year. In an open letter to Yeltsin, Foundation President Rick Tumlinson warned that using a series of Progress space tugs to plunge Mir to a fiery re-entry poses too great a risk to the public, and urged Russia to instead place it into a higher, stable orbit until new technology is available to re-use the multi-billion dollar space station.

"We congratulate the people of Russia for operating history's longest-lived space station. But why is such a successful facility being destroyed, and lives put at risk, simply because the American space agency sees it as inconvenient while building its expensive new International Space Station?," wrote Tumlinson. Describing the plan to use a series of Progress spaceships to de-orbit the station as "ill-conceived", Tumlinson stated that, "if just one Progress were to fail at the wrong moment, 150 tons of fiery metal will rain down somewhere on Earth. And we have seen that Progress spaceships, like all such craft, do indeed fail", referring to last July's near-catastrophic crash of a Progress tanker with Mir.

The Foundation also pointed out that NASA's announced plans to have its space station served by commercial spaceships will create a transportation system that can serve both stations. "Mir has great value to Russia as orbital real estate...given that replacing Mir will cost untold billions of dollars, when these new spaceship fleets begin to fly companies will race to win contracts to convert the station into a 21st century orbital spaceport, laboratory or even the first space hotel," Tumlinson explained.

Citing NASA's questionable motivation in the destruction of earlier technologies such as the Saturn V launcher and the Skylab space station, Tumlinson urged Yeltsin not to emulate the U.S. space program in this regard. "Why waste Mir?...why not 'Keep Mir Alive' and turn it into a symbol of free enterprise and hope for the New Russia?" Added David Anderman, Project Director for the Foundation's Keep Mir Alive campaign, "the current plans to take Mir out of orbit are simply absurd. It's like spending $50,000 to junk your car – by dropping it on your own house."

The Space Frontier Foundation is an organization of people dedicated to opening the Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible. Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere and creating a freer and more prosperous life for each generation by using the unlimited energy and material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System.

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The Frontier Enabling Test
Our definition of a "frontier enabling" technology or policy is one which has as its effect the acceleration of the creation of low cost access to the space frontier for private citizens and companies, enables or accelerates our use of space resources, and/or accelerates the rate at which wealth can be generated in space. In other words, is the project or policy going to provide a return on the national investment, if we define "return" to be the economically sustainable human habitation of space?

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