Posted: Tue, Mar 20, 2001, 11:02 AM ET (1602 GMT)
With only a few days before the Russian space station Mir is scheduled to plummet to Earth over the South Pacific, the news related to its demise has become more and more unusual. Russian officials confirmed Monday that Mir's reentry has been pushed back again, to Friday at 1:30 am EST (0630 GMT), to allow more time for the station's orbit to decay naturally and thus preserving propellant on the Progress spacecraft whose engine will deorbit the station. While Mir's fate has been essentially sealed, the speaker of the lower house of the Russian Duma, Gennady Seleznyov, has asked Russian president Vladimir Putin in a letter to save the station and also build a new Russian station, Mir 2. That proposal was charitably called a "fantasy" by a Rosaviakosmos spokesman, according to a Reuters article. Similarly fantastic was a proposal by Iran last week to finance the operation of the Mir for the next two to three years or buy it outright. Such a proposal was made by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami during a visit to Russian mission control last week, CNN reported. No explanation was given regarding what Iran would do with Mir, but Russia turned down the proposal. Not everyone is taking the Mir reentry too seriously: Taco Bell, the American fast food chain, announced Monday that it will give every American a free taco if a piece of Mir strikes a 40 x 40 foot floating target off the coast of Australia labeled "Free Taco Here!" The company said that it has taken out an insurance policy to cover the cost of the tacos should a piece hit the target.