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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mir Descent Set for 9 a.m. Friday

Space officials said the Mir space station will be dumped Friday, one day later than planned, while the State Duma speaker made a last-minute public appeal Monday for President Vladimir Putin to grant the aging station a reprieve.

Space officials had previously set Mir's controlled descent into the South Pacific for early Thursday, but after a meeting Monday they said it would be postponed by one day because the station's orbit was dropping more slowly than expected.

Mir was orbiting 228 kilometers above the Earth on Monday and was expected to drift down another three kilometers by Tuesday.

Mission Control wants Mir to descend to 220 kilometers before aligning the station for the final maneuver. If everything goes according to plan, a cargo ship docked at the station will fire its engines twice during two consecutive orbits to lower the station further and then, several hours later, fire one last time to send the station hurtling into the South Pacific between Australia and Chile at about 9 a.m. Moscow time Friday.

Fearing that Mir's unstable batteries could make it impossible to use Mir's computer to guide its descent, space officials have worked out a backup — using the onboard computer and separate radio communications of the Progress cargo ship.

"If an engine impulse is insufficient, the station will fly farther and the southern tip of South America could be affected," said Nikolai Anfimov, the head of the Central Institute of Machine-Building, the leading expert body for the space program.

Duma Speaker Gennady Selez-nyovtold reporters Monday that he sent a letter to Putin earlier this month, proposing to upgrade Mir into Mir-2.

According to Seleznyov, Russia should raise Mir to a higher orbit and later modernize it, using a backup version of the Zarya module. Zarya, built for NASA by the Khrunichev company, was launched in November 1998 to become the first segment of the international space station.

Seleznyov said he hadn't received Putin's reply.

An eleventh-hour offer to bail out Mir reportedly came from Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who visited Mission Control last Tuesday.

Radzhab Safarov, the head of the Center for Coordination of Russian-Iranian programs, a Duma-linked think tank, said at a news conference Monday that Khatami offered to buy Mir, or to help finance it for the next two or three years, but space officials refused, saying that Mir's days were over, Interfax reported.

The claim couldn't be independently confirmed. Russian Aviation and Space Agency chief Yury Koptev, who accompanied Khatami around Mission Control, didn't mention any discussion of Mir's future while speaking to journalists after the visit.