SLUG: 2-268275 Russia/Mir DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: For several years, Russia has been considering what to do with its aging MIR space station. Now, a panel of experts has drawn up a plan that could bring the station to a fiery end within several months. Bill Gasperini has more

from Moscow.

TEXT: The experts have drafted a plan to destroy the MIR if the government finally decides that is what must be done.

After careful deliberation, the experts say the station's orbit could be lowered so that it would burn up on reentering earth's atmosphere. Remaining debris would then fall along a guided path into the Pacific Ocean. The entire operation would last several days and could take place as early as next February.

The government has said it will probably decide to destroy the station because it can't afford the annual cost of about 250 million dollars to keep it in orbit. But many Russians want the MIR to keep on flying, saying the 14-year-old station is a matter of national pride. In recent years various foreign businessmen have talked about raising the money to keep MIR in orbit.

One plan would turn the station into a hotel for rich tourists, who would pay up to 20 million dollars for a stay in space.

But so far, all alternative plans have failed to raise the necessary funds.

Russia has also come under pressure from the United States and other countries to scrap the MIR and concentrate its meager resources on the new international space station.

Budget problems in Russia caused extensive delays in the construction of its part of the new ALPHA station.

The first joint U-S-Russian crew is due to blast off for ALPHA later this month. (Signed)