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Mirror, Mirror, Lost In Space

Russia has given up on its space mirror.

The much-hyped experiment ended Friday when cosmonauts on the space station Mir sent the partially unfolded mirror into the Earth's atmosphere to burn up. What was left dropped harmlessly into the Pacific Ocean.

The 83-foot diameter disk was supposed to reflect a beam of sunlight to the Earth's surface. But its petal-like segments refused to unfurl Thursday and attempts to un-jam it didn't work.

Russian officials say another mirror is built, but there are no plans so far to put it into space. Scientists hoped that a huger version of the test mirror could bring extra light to sun-starved northern cities.

The mirror was supposed to work like an artificial moon, reflecting sunlight onto several regions on Earth. If the cosmonauts had been successful, reports CBS News Correspondent David Hawkins, the mirror would have created a three-mile wide beam of light.

The Russians hoped this would lead to a series of larger mirrors to make the short winter days longer in their northern cities.

Instead of bouncing sunbeams to Earth, NASA prefers that the space program focus its effort on the international space station - a $60 billion, 14-nation joint project. Russia is more than a year late in finishing a critical part of the station and the delay is holding up everyone else. More lost time could cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars, but the problem is simple: Moscow is almost broke.

Russia performed a similar mirror experiment six years ago, but the crew then didn't try to maneuver the mirror, and it was barely visible even to those who knew its exact position.

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