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Mir update: delays, insurance, and bacteria
Posted: Wed, Mar 7, 2001, 12:25 PM ET (1725 GMT)
Mir space station While the date for the reentry of the Russian space station Mir is pushed back again, worries about the station's demise — both rational and irrational — continue to grow. Russian officials said Tuesday that the order to bring down the station will likely be given between March 18-20, a few days later than previously reported. If the station's orbit was allowed to decay naturally it would come down on March 28. As concerns about falling debris from the reentry grow, not only near the South Pacific impact site but as far away as East Asia and even Europe, a Rosaviakosmos spokesman told Interfax that Russia was purchasing $200 million worth of insurance to cover any claims that could arise. However, another, more bizarre concern about the reentry has arisen: mutant bacteria. Yuri Karash, a Russian aerospace advisor and journalist, said at a press conference Tuesday that strains of bacteria, mutated by radiation, could pose a "realistic problem" if they survived reentry. The bacteria strains on Mir has been known to destroy metal and plastic and generate toxins, although there have been no reported cases of station inhabitants getting sick or injured by these bacteria.
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