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Russians Lose Contact With MirAired December 26, 2000 - 7:11 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We have an update now on a development overnight involving the Russian space station Mir. Russian mission control is facing a potential disaster situation. They lost contact with the aging spacecraft for several hours, only re-establishing it for just a few minutes, losing it again this morning.
CNN's Moscow bureau chief, Jill Dougherty, is keeping an eye on this situation.
Jill, what is the latest there?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Carol, the latest is that the situation has been changing really very rapidly. But the latest that we get from the press service of mission control is that they were able to establish -- re-establish contact with the Mir space station but only with part of the station, and they told us for only seven minutes. Then they lost communication again. And about an hour from now, they're going to try once again. But so far, it's about almost 20 hours of no communication with the Mir space station.
Now, the first thing to note is that there is no one aboard, and that, of course, is good news. But the concern here is that, as you probably know, the Mir space station is scheduled to be brought down out of orbit and eventually burned up in the atmosphere at the end of February, February 27th or 28th, brought down about 1,200-1,500 kilometers from Australia, in the ocean, destroyed.
But if you do not have communication with the space station, it's hard to know precisely what is going on. And the concern would be, through that radio communication they were able to tweak the auto pilot. As Miles O'Brien, who's our space correspondent, was telling me just a few minutes ago, they were tweaking the station, keeping it in the right orbit. If they're not able to do that, then there is concern as to where precisely the space station would go -- could it lose orbit before they want it to.
So again, they're trying to re-establish communication. And we'll just have to see what they say. It should be another hour from now. One more attempt, Carol.
LIN: So, Jill, I don't want to speculate, because we do have another hour before they do try to re-establish communications, but what are their options if they can't and don't? DOUGHERTY: They could send a crew up, an emergency crew that would go up, two cosmonauts presumably, who would try to establish what's going on, perhaps enter the Mir, try to fix whatever is broken. It's obviously some radio communication that's broken. And that would happen. But of course, that's a complex operation, and they would only want to do it if there were no other way to establish communication.
They're tracking it right now, by the way, Carol, with ground stations. But the point is, they need that telemetry, as they call it -- the communication with radio -- in order for everything to work properly.
LIN: So you're saying they still know where the Mir actually is in its orbit?
DOUGHERTY: I believe they do. And NASA in fact has been -- has a projected location of the Mir space station. But that appears to be -- if nothing were done, we are told, at this point it would stay in orbit as it is, circling the Earth very frequently. But the problem is over time, if they're not able to tweak that orbit, it could begin to lose orbit and get closer to the Earth. And the danger, of course, could be that a large section of it could fall on the Earth.
DOUGHERTY: But we are, it would appear, pretty far away from that at this point.
LIN: OK, let's hope for that.
Thank you very much, Jill Dougherty, for reporting in from Moscow.
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