Wednesday, March 21, 2001
The 135-ton Mir Space Station is now floating about 141 miles
above the planet, and it's slowing down with every passing minute.
When it drops to 132 miles high at about 1 am EST this Friday,
Russian engineers will fire its rockets, nudging it into Earth's thick
atmosphere. Friction from the reentry will end the craft's 15-year career, and
is expected to present a thrilling meteor shower as the station shatters into
about 40 tons of burning debris, then splashes into the Pacific Ocean between
New Zealand and Chile.
If you can't afford a ticket on the spectator plane that will
dodge those flaming, car-sized chunks, what's the best way to witness the
You can check out television broadcasts or www.mirreentry.com, but the best seat in
the house will probably be on the ground in Moscow, where Russian space
controllers will use high-performance graphics hardware to simulate and
visualize Mir's final flight.
They will use STK software from Analytical Graphics Inc. (Malvern,
PA, www.stk.com), which is often used to track
trajectory and attitude for NASA's Space Shuttle launches. The software will run
on a MaxPac® Transportable Workstation from MAXVision Corp. (Madison, AL, www.maxvision.com), connected to live
telemetry from Moscow mission control.