Los Angeles, CA, June 12, 1998 – As the Space Shuttle returns today from its “last” mission to the Russian Mir space station, the Space Frontier Foundation hailed the Shuttle-Mir program for allowing Americans to experience long term spaceflight. The Foundation also urged the Russian space agency and the international private sector to examine means of keeping Mir in orbit as a potential commercial space platform.
“With several new space transportation systems about to be launched over the next few years, destroying the only piece of commercial real estate in orbit and with it the money it could generate for the Russian economy – mere months before the first customers arrive – is shortsighted to say the least,” says Foundation President Rick Tumlinson.
The Foundation sees STS-MIR as an incredibly cost effective and innovative program for the U.S. taxpayers, with the U.S. having bought almost 1,000 crew days on orbit for a mere $450 Million dollars, which is less than the cost of one shuttle flight. But the Foundation also believes many criticisms of the Mir space station are based on a well-orchestrated NASA campaign to clear the way for its bloated International Space Station project. As an example, Mir is over 12 years old, but is no older then most of the Shuttle fleet used to transport crew members to Mir, and several of its modules were only launched in the last few years. Despite NASA’s successfully labeling Mir with such descriptors as the “aging” and “troubled station”, returning U.S. and international astronauts have said the station is running fine, given the challenges its operators face.
“Mir is valuable as a potential commercial facility. If they destroy it, someone else will have pay to build another one to replace it,” says David Anderman, manager of the Foundation’s Keep Mir Alive project, which has garnered international support from over a dozen countries. “We need to find ways to keep Mir available as a potential spaceport into the next decade.”