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Breaking News

Russians Report Losing Contact With Mir

Aired December 26, 2000 - 6:31 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Officials with the Russian space agency report losing contact with the space station Mir yesterday. There is a development, though. To get the very latest on this, we go straight to Jill Dougherty, who's live in Moscow.

Jill, hello. What do you have?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Hey, Linda.

Well, the latest is actually coming from Russian TV, RTR, the official state television. And they are saying that communication now has been re-established with the Mir space station.

Russian reporters from RTR usually have contact with high officials, and if we can believe that report, then it would be very welcome news for the Russian space station and for a lot of people in the world actually, because if that contact has been re-established, it would mean that the Mir presumably is in orbit where it's supposed to be and communication has been re-established.

It was lost at about 7:00 p.m. Moscow time yesterday. That's Monday, Christmas Day in the West. And they had tried to re-establish contact several times over the past 19 hours.

And the one -- the significance of all of this, Linda, is that the Mir space station is supposed to be brought down to Earth in February, at the end of February, the 27th or 28th. It was going to be burning up in the atmosphere. And the concern here was that instead of a controlled lowering of the Mir space station, it would be an uncontrolled event and it could be dangerous, because parts of that might come down in populated areas of the Earth.

Now, it's looking as if communication has been re-established, and presumably, things are back to normal.

But it does raise, Linda, this issue, which has been a debating point here in Russia for quite some time. Should the Mir even be kept as long as it was? Isn't it time to bring it down as quickly as possible? And we'll have to see whether the space station -- the space agency decides to stick to that initial schedule of February or perhaps they want to try something to bring it down even sooner.

But again, we'll have to get back to you for that, but it looks as if there is some good news in the story -- Linda. STOUFFER: Jill, I know we're going with the Russian TV report that contact has been re-established. Is this the kind of thing that the Russian space agency would confirm for us?

DOUGHERTY: Yes, eventually I'm sure that they would. In fact, when we spoke to them, they were confirming some aspects initially but not the loss of contact. It could be that it will just take a few more minutes to get that confirmation.

But many people in the space station do believe that it is time to say goodbye to the Mir. One of the debates really was that the Mir made Russia money. They had people who were willing -- in fact, one American who was willing to pay $10 million to fly on the Mir. And the idea was maybe they could just keep it going as a cash cow for the Russian government.

But the concern was it's a 15-year-old station. It's had numerous problems. It was supposed to exist -- actually it was built for only five years. And many in the space station -- in the space agency said it was really dangerous to keep it up there.

And as we can see, even if this ends happily, it's another reminder of the technical problems that have plagued the Mir space station as it becomes older and older -- Linda.

LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. We will stay tuned.

Jill Dougherty, with the latest out of Moscow, thank you very much for that.

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