ASSURANCE ON MIR SOUGHT BY FORUM

PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT March 9, 2001

The Pacific Islands Forum is seeking assurances from Russia that its space station Mir poses minimal threats to Pacific Island nations when it crashes to Earth sometime in the near future.

"The planned final stages of the descent of the Russian space station to a zone in the South Pacific is raising serious concerns due to the uncertainties about when and where it will crash," said Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr. Iosefa Maiava.

"We want to be fully informed about the timetable and pathway of descent, and we're seeking an assurance that this activity is consistent with international safety standards and poses minimal threats to Pacific Island countries," Mr. Maiava said.

Current information is that the space station will splash down between the 10th and 15th of March, somewhere between New Zealand and Chile. The possible track is 100 kilometers (60 miles) wide and 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) long.

The Forum understands from previous information provided by the Russian Aero Space Agency that the space station contains no radioactive or hazardous materials aboard.

Most of the 130-ton station is expected to burn up in the atmosphere, with Russian officials attempting to bring it down in an area 140 degrees West, 47 degrees South, about 4,000 kilometers (2,400 miles) East of New Zealand.

Some particles are expected to survive re-entry with controllers hoping these will land in the open ocean, away from human activity.

There are international guidelines to advise operators of the safest way to dispose of their satellites. International Treaties, under the United Nations, identify responsibility and potential liabilities associated with the operation of space vehicles.

As the 'Launching State,' Russia is responsible for any impact or results of the MIR re-entry in accordance with, for example, Article VII and VIII of the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies.

The Forum Secretariat is liaising with regional agencies and foreign missions as part of efforts to keep member states informed of developments.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

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