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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mir Computer Started In Preparation for Crew

The Flight Control Center in Korolyov managed to turn on the Mir station's main computer Friday, clearing what space officials said was the last hurdle on their drive to send another crew to the aged scientific outpost.

The center's spokesman Valery Lyndin said in a telephone interview that specialists have already begun uploading "various necessary" commands into the computer, including one that will activate Mir's engines.

"The computer is behaving well and now there is no other hurdle left" to stop commander Sergei Zaletin and engineer Alexander Kaleri from taking off March 30, Lyndin said.

The Russian government on Thursday approved the flight and agreed to extend the station's life through August.

Lyndin said the center might go ahead and order the Mir computer to fire up the station's engines on Friday evening to stop it rotating and get it oriented along three axes. Such a three-axis orientation is optimal for manned flights of Mir, he said.

And Saturday the center will order the Mir computer to activate the station's gyrodines, which will begin rotating to keep the outpost's solar batteries oriented toward the sun and boost production of energy.

Zaletin and Kaleri are being trained to tackle all sorts of emergencies aboard Mir, including a possible failure of the automatic docking of the Progress cargo ship with Mir, which has been unmanned since last August, Andrei Maiboroda, spokesman for the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, said.

The modernized Progress-M1 ship is to deliver vital supplies to the station before the manned mission begins.

However, if the automatic docking fails on Feb. 2, the two cosmonauts will have to fly an emergency mission to Mir sometime in the second half of February to manually guide the Progress to Mir, according to the deputy head of the Flight Control Center, Dmitry Blagov.

The automatic system has been successful in all 120 dockings in which it was used.

Once on board, Kaleri and Zaletin will try to locate an air leak that has reduced pressure in the station, Blagov said. The Progress will deliver only enough air to keep pressure at minimal safety levels for four months.

While obliged by the federal government to keep Mir flying, the Russian Aviation and Space Agency is taking pains to meet its commitments in the International Space Station, general director Yury Koptev said.

The Zvezda Service Module will be launched in July to ISS and two Progress cargo ships as well one Soyuz craft will be launched to the station this year, he said.

He acknowledged, however, that Rosaviakosmos will have to divert some of the spacecraft and launchers originally manufactured for the International Space Station to ship supplies to Mir. Russia's ISS partners have been unhappy about Moscow's repeated failures to keep up with the ISS launch schedule.