Space: February 19, 2000


MIR GETS NEW LEASE ON LIFE: The space station that would not die will get a few more months or years under new deals being set up by the Russian space agency. A US production company, Videfco, has signed a $206 million deal to film an action-adventure movie in space using Russian actor Vladimir Steklov and the Mir space station. Assuming Steklov passes a cosmonaut physical, he will be sent to Mir for 28 days of location filming on 31 March. The movie is to be based on Chingiz Aitmatov's 1994 novel "The Mark of Cassandra" in which a scientist, pursued by security police, escapes into space. The movie deal is only the first of many commercial ventures to be arranged by MirCorp, a new company chartered in Bermuda. MirCorp (a majority of which is owned by Energia, the Russian company that operates Mir) has already come up with $25 million (under the movie deal) to pay to have a Progress cargo rocket push Mir into a higher orbit. More money will keep the station flying through the end of the year. MirCorp is offering all kinds of deals, including the use of Mir for space tourism, private scientific research, private pharmaceutical production, live broadcasts, and as a base for a private repair crew that would work on ailing satellites. NASA is furious, noting that while some of the cost of keeping Mir aloft is coming from MirCorp, this pays only part of the expensive operations and that Russia should focus its energies on the International Space Station.--Stephen V Cole


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