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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mission Bontrol Boots Up Mir's Main Computer

In a step to prepare the Mir space station for disposal in the Pacific Ocean later this month, Russian ground controllers Monday booted up the uninhabited station's main computer and began sending it commands.

The computer will be used to align the station in relation to Earth, said Vsevolod Latyshev, a spokesman at Mission Control. The step is necessary before rockets on a cargo ship docked to Mir can fire and send the 140-ton space station down to Earth.

The flight control computer on Mir's main module had been switched off to conserve electricity on the outpost, allowing the station with its jutting modules and solar wings to tumble slowly end over end through space.

Controllers allowed the station to tumble after gyroscopes that had been used to align the station broke down earlier this year, said Latyshev, in one of a string of mishaps on the ailing, 15-year-old station.

Mission Control said last week the station would likely be scuttled Mar. 20. But Monday deputy chief of Mission Control Viktor Blagov said it would probably occur Mar. 21, Itar-Tass reported.

Mir, once the crowning achievement of the Russian space program, has deteriorated in recent years and the Russian government finally agreed to abandon it.

Much of the station is expected to burn up from atmospheric friction, but officials estimate that some 1,500 fragments could reach the surface.

Participants at a conference on space law in Singapore Monday urged new international regulations to govern the disposal of space debris. About 1,500 discarded satellites and other large debris pose a danger both to working satellites in space and to people on Earth's surface, the participants said.