Los Angeles, CA, March 23, 2001 – The Space Frontier Foundation called the destruction of the historic Mir space station an unnecessary waste of a still useful and historic building in space, and laid the blame for its demise on NASA Administrator Dan Goldin. The group says the U.S. pressured the Russians and worked against efforts by Americans who wanted to save the facility.
“Mir was bulldozed to make way for International Space Station Alpha,” said Foundation President Rick Tumlinson, “regardless of the fact that a group of Americans were working with the Russians and investing their own funds in the MirCorp firm to keep it up and transform it into a symbol of free enterprise.” He continued, “If not for constant pressure from the U.S. government and a very negative PR campaign, Mir could have been a source of income and jobs, instead of a sad display in the night sky.”
The Foundation created the “Keep Mir Alive” campaign in 1998 when the station was first threatened. Tumlinson helped lead a two pronged effort to save Mir, either as a commercial facility or to keep it in orbit with a low cost electromagnetic tether system, designed to lift the station to a long-term storage orbit. After more than a year of red tape and hundred of thousands of dollars in legal bills, the $2 million tether system was approved for export by the State Department a few days AFTER the official decision to de-orbit Mir was made.
“The de-orbit of the Mir station will be seen by future generations as a tremendous waste,” remarked Foundation Chairman Michael K. Heney. “Raising Mir via tether would have provided an opportunity to demonstrate a cost-effective and commercially viable technology.” Added Heney, “rejecting the opportunity to preserve, instead of destroy, shows short-term thinking, and highlights NASA’s fear of competition, threatening its monopoly in space. Competition and free enterprise will be our future in space – NASA should embrace this concept sooner rather than later.”
The Foundation salutes the incredible legacy of the Mir station, its builders and the many who served on her. The Foundation is a group of people working to open space to human settlement. It is promoting a new management structure for space station Alpha designed to support all human activities in space, public and private.