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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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A New Lease on Mir's Life
10 April 2000 7:00 pm
Like Rasputin, Mir never seems to die. The 14-year-old space station is again open for business, after a 7-month hiatus, and a Netherlands-based company called Mir Corp. is eager to offer the orbiting facility for scientific use--and ultimately for visits by rich tourists.
Two cosmonauts have been aboard Mir since 6 April, checking life-support systems, fixing a small leak, and preparing to conduct a batch of Russian scientific experiments. The flight was paid for by Mir Corp., which is funded by wealthy U.S. investors, and Energia, Russia's largest space company, which operates Mir on behalf of the Russian government.
Many NASA officials would prefer to see Mir shut down permanently so that Russia could concentrate on building its portion of the long-delayed international space station (ISS). But Mir Corp. president Jeffrey Manber says that keeping Mir going will not divert Russian government spending from the international facility. He adds that some companies and governments have set aside money to conduct experiments on the ISS, but can't do them because of the delays; Mir Corp. can step into that breach. "There is already equipment on Mir which can be used very cost effectively," Manber says. But to make money, Manber adds that the company hopes eventually to send paying tourists to the station--for tens of millions of dollars a ride.
On the current mission, the cosmonauts will study plasma-dust structures in microgravity, examine ways to spot seal failures in space equipment, take digital photos of Earth from Mir's portholes, along with dozens of other experiments, most of which will use existing equipment. In the fall, Manber says he hopes a new team of cosmonauts will conduct experiments on behalf of Western scientists. He concedes that "there's a tough road ahead when it comes to newcomers," given the uncertainty of the station's future. But for now, at least, Mir is proving that space stations have many lives.