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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Space Veterans Say Mir a Sacrifice to Progress

Veterans of Russia's cash-strapped space programme said Tuesday that last minute attempts by some to save the Mir space station were misguided and the station had be sacrificed in the name of progress.

Mir is due to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean around March 17-20 -- but parliament and other supporters have urged leaders to find money to keep the 15-year-old orbiter flying.

"We can't hold on to what is old. We need to move forward and develop new technology...It is regrettable, to make advances, that Mir must come down," Leonid Gorshkov, one of Mir's designers, told a news conference.

Once the pride of the Soviet space programme, Mir has become an accident-prone workhorse that detractors say has distracted Russia from obligations to the new $60-billion International Space Station (ISS).

Gorshkov, also an official at Mir builder and operator Energiya, said that after serving five times its intended lifespan, the orbiter's mission was complete.

He said Mir could be kept aloft, but that Russia's finances would not allow it and the logic of doing so was not clear.

"The question is whether or not Russia can at the same time service two programmes -- both (ISS) and Mir," he said. "It is, in my opinion, not realistic."

Musa Manarov, a cosmonaut who spent a year on Mir, said it served no purpose to over-sentimentalise the station's demise as it had been outdated by technological advances.

"I personally will not be wiping away any tears because I do not believe we should worry more about metal than we do about people," Manarov said.

Gorshokov added Russia was confident it could bring Mir down safely in a target zone in a remote part of the Pacific, east of New Zealand's southern tip.

"We are sure none of the station's parts will hit land," he said. "Concerns about safety have really been overstated."

Space officials say up to 1,500 fragments of the station are expected to reach Earth, some at speeds high enough to smash through two metres (6.5 feet) of reinforced concrete.

But Gorshkov noted that the Earth was bombarded by hundreds of objects from space each year, ranging from meteorites to spent booster rockets, and that to the best of his knowledge no one had ever been injured by them.