Chris v.d. Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202.
Progress-M42: This old freighter had to free the docking port for the Progress M1-1 and when it was clear that all systems on board of the new ship were working well, the Progress -M42 could get away. On 2.02.2000 at 06.10.40UTC the ship undocked from Mir and the return in the atmosphere and the decay over a designated area east of New-Zealand took place that day at 06.57.20UTC.
Orbit corrections Mir-complex:
1st correction: The engines of the Progress-M42 gave the impulses for that orbit correction on 25.01.2000. In this way the altitude of the complex was lifted by a few dozens of kilometers. This was not enough and 2 more corrections were planned. 2nd and 3rd correction: On 7 and 9.02.2000 the engines of Progress M1-1 executed this operation and lifted the complex from approx. 320 KM to a per/apogee of 352/367 KM.
The use of the Progress M1-1 for this purpose (so increasing the altitude) is an indication that the Russians seriously work on plans to continue the operation of Mir in the manned mode for a while or at least put back the decay of the complex. Originally the Progress M1-1 had to lower the altitude of Mir.
Tests of the on board computers and gyrodynes:
Both around 25.01 as on 8.02.2000 the computers (the analogue BUPO for the control of steering rockets and the Main Computer, the digital TsVM-1 for the attitude control by gyrodynes, have been tested. All systems, the gyrodynes included, functioned flawlessly.
The Progress M1-1 delivered to Mir extra oxygen and nitrogen to increase the pressure in the complex, which had decreased dramatically during the last months, and bring this again on a level of approx. 750 MM mercury. Experts will try to open the necessary valves by telecommands. If these attempts would fail the cosmonauts of the 28th M.E. have to do this manually. Then they will have to take special measures to enter the complex.
I was not able to follow the operations in the last 2 months on by base. In that period I made a tourist and space trip to Texas, Alabama and Florida.
Plans for the near future:
So Mir will stay in space for the time being. However we have to be realistic. So to begin with the solid plans:
For a long time the schedule foresaw in the launch of the Soyuz-TM30 with the 28th ME crew consisting of Zalyotin and Kaleri on 31.03.2000. (So this had nothing to do with the founding of the Mircorp). This crew has to stay in Mir for 30 or 45 days for the execution of repairs and modifications aimed at the safe decay of the complex in the atmosphere.
Already for a long period RKK Energiya tried to find investors or customers to be able to continue the exploitation of Mir self-supporting. This endeavour conflicted with the position of Rosaviakosmos (the Russian NASA), as Russia promised to concentrate all means for the Russian contribution in the ISS, the decay of Mir as soon and as safe as possible included. RKK Energiya got permission from the Russian Government and the DUMA to go on with Mir if RKK Energiya the company succeeded in commercial activities from investments by private organisations. The succeeded to get a small amount of money and a lot has been promised. To continue the exploitation of Mir in that way an extensive plan has to be drafted and realised.
Some American millionaires want to invest a lot of money in Mir for the use of the station for several purposes, i.e. as a space hotel for tourists, a platform for the repair of satellites, a kind of node for Internet services and for the execution of experiments by scientific institutes and enterprises.
Gradually the name of Steklov, a Russian actor who should play in film on board Mir, is mentioned as a future visitor of Mir. Fact is that he is still in training for a spaceflight.
A Mr. Manber in England and the director of RKK Energiya, Yuriy Semyonov, signed documents for the founding of a company named Mircorp. At the moment this company has a reference point at a lawyers office in the Dutch city Utrecht, but they are trying to find a location for an office in Amsterdam.
My provisional conclusion: Gradually money is coming in and this makes it possible for RKK Energiya to extend the manned status of Mir, but only with trained cosmonauts and certainly not for tourists. The modules of Mir complex are absolutely unsuitable to be converted into hotel rooms. Mir will never be able to serve as platform for the maintenance of satellites. Due to the fixed orbit and inclination only a very few satellites will be able to come in the neighbourhood of Mir. For limited repair missions only space shuttles are flexible enough.
The representatives who gave statements about Mir Corporation's plans with Mir do not have the necessary background knowledge and need an extensive briefing by their partner RKK Energiya (or even me) to able to give adequate answers on technical and operational questions.
Chris van den Berg, NL-9165/A-UK3202
Ahead: Week 19 of Increment 16.
For today's Voluntary Science program, Peggy Whitson continued her work with the InSPACE-2 (Investigating the Structure of Paramagnetic Aggregates from Colloidal Emulsions) experiment in the MSG (Microgravity Science Glovebox), conducting runs #31, #32 and #33 to investigate low frequency behavior (0.66 Hz) at the highest particle concentration MR (magnetorheological) fluid, exchanging video tapes after each run, then removing the vial assembly and finally powering the MSG down. (InSPACE obtains basic data on MR fluids, i.e., a new class of "smart materials" that can be used to improve or develop new brake systems, seat suspensions robotics, clutches, airplane landing gear, and vibration damper systems. The colloidal (dispersed) particles are contained in CAs (Coil Assemblies) in the MSG that subject them to electric fields at certain strength and frequencies. The desired strong dipolar interaction between the small colloidal particles can be achieved in micro-G simply with an external magnetic field being turned on and off. On the ground, the flow properties (rheology) of many materials, especially those making up consumer products like detergents, fabric softeners, toothpaste and paints, are similarly controlled, though not by magnetic fields but by adding a polymer. It now appears, for example, that new formulations of fabric softeners may perform better in space than on earth.) Additional Details: ISS On-Orbit Status 02/24/08.