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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tracking The Final Minutes

Mission Control has given a step-by-step technical outline of Mir's planned descent.

On Thursday, the Flight Control Center in Korolyov, outside Moscow, will upload orientation commands to Mir's main computer. The space station will be reoriented so that the engines of the Progress cargo ship, which was docked to Mir in January, can be fired off against the direction of the station's flight to begin pushing it downward.

Early Friday, Mission Control will upload deorbiting commands to Progress' control system. This system will then order the cargo ship's engines to be fired off — set for 3:33 a.m. Friday — to give Mir the first of the braking impulses necessary to ensure a controlled descent. The second impulse is scheduled for 5:02 a.m. The center will then wait for Mir to orbit the Earth twice before issuing the third and final impulse at around 8:30 a.m.

The station will rapidly heat up when pushed down into the denser layers of the atmosphere, and will start disintegrating at an altitude of 90 to 110 kilometers.

Up to 1,500 fragments, weighing a total of some 13 to 19 tons, will survive the burning dash through the atmosphere.

They are set to hit the surface of the Pacific Ocean at around 9:30 a.m. Friday within an area some 6,000 kilometers long and 500 kilometers wide, about 1,500 to 2,000 kilometers away from Australia.

There is a 2 percent chance that Mir will spin out of control.

Theoretically, in the event of an uncontrolled nosedive, the station could land anywhere between 52 N and 52 S latitude where about 5 billion of the planet's 6 billion people live, according to Mission Control's chief ballistics expert Nikolai Ivanov.

Video footage of the descent — not organized by Mission Control — wll be posted at the web site.