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Mir's Last Hurrah?

Incoming Mir commander Victor Afanasyev, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Haignere and Slovak cosmonaut Ivan Bella docked with the Mir space station Monday morning, two days after their launch, reports CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood.

The launch marked the 13th anniversary of the Mir core module's launch in 1986.

Hatches between the cosmonauts' Soyuz ferry craft and the space station were opened at 2:07 a.m. EST.

The mission control center near Moscow was packed with French and Slovak officials for what could be the final docking of a new crew at the aging Russian space station.

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More News From Space
CBS News Space Consultant Bill Harwood Reports.

Feb. 22, 1999


The new crew joins outgoing Mir commander Gennady Padalka and flight engineer Sergei Avdeyev, who were launched to the Russian outpost on Aug. 13, 1998.

Padalka and Bella will return to Earth on Feb. 28, while the others will remain aboard Mir for an extended mission.

If private funding cannot be found to pay for continued Mir operations - and no such funding has yet been secured - Afanasyev and Avdeyev will help orchestrate Mir's destruction later this summer or fall.

That is certainly the option favored by NASA managers, who say Russia does not have the financial resources or technical infrastructure to support both Mir and the new international space station.

To keep Mir going, the Russians need about $250 million a year. For his part, Afanasyev said before launch he hopes his crew won't be Mir's last.

"It would be a great pity to discard the station," he said.

©1998 CBS Worldwide Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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