MOSCOW, Russia (March 22, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Russia prepared to give the last rites to its Soviet-era Mir space station after the doomed orbiter reached the critical altitude from which it will plunge towards earth in a ball of fire.

Russia’s Interfax news agency says the 15-year-old space station has made its rendezvous with the planned orbit at 220 kilometers (132 miles) above the earth.

Russian space experts will now calculate a destruction trajectory.

The successful descent to the set altitude marked the start of a complex 48-hour program of maneuvers that will lead to Mir re-entering the earth’s atmosphere, raining debris over the Pacific Ocean at around 0620 UTC on Friday.

In the final run-up to Mir’s destruction, a progress supply ship will fire three short bursts from its rocket boosters, knocking Mir out of the 220-kilometer orbit.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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