Monday, March 19, 2001
Nostalgia draws that lump in one's throat at the thought of ending
a fifteen-year journey, particularly if it involved an 18,000-mph orbit around
the earth and a near-sonic landing in the South Pacific Ocean.
On Friday, March 23*, a three-day delay from the original
scheduled date, the Russian space station MIR is expected to end its voyage.
Thanks to ParallelGraphics, a 3D Internet technology firm headquartered in
Dublin, Ireland, aspiring cosmonauts and couch potatoes alike can track the
space station's final days through the "End of MIR" 3D Web project.
"The beauty of MIR is that you can manipulate the mirrors to be a
cosmonaut yourself," says Sean Gregory of ParallelGraphics. By downloading the
free 500-Kbyte Cortona viewer, users can access the links from the Russian space
station data to the ParallelGraphics website tracking its progress. The VRML
(Visual Reality Modeling Language) viewer enables users to follow the final path
of MIR in 3D, even on PDAs. According to Gregory, the website information and
look will change daily throughout the "End of MIR" project.
About two-thirds of MIR is anticipated to break up when passing
through the earth's atmosphere, but about one third of it will remain intact and
land in the South Pacific Ocean. And if you go to the website, Gregory adds,
"You get to see it burn up in real time." To view MIR's return to Earth, go to
*The scheduled MIR landing date is continually changing. For
schedule updates, visit www.cnn.com.