"This could become yet another distraction for the Russians, an excuse to justify keeping Mir aloft as some sort of free-floating space commissary," he says. "The cost, in both Russian funds and talent, would be far more than the equipment is worth." In any event, there's plenty of time to decide what to do: The Mir's expected to stay up for at least another year. And the ISS's production schedule looks stalled again. After a mysterious alarm sounded in the cockpit, NASA delayed the launch of the space shuttle Endeavor and its cargo of an ISS connector-passageway named Unity, until Friday.
CAPE CANAVERAL: NASA's next delivery to Mir could be four cinder blocks and a set of socket wrenches. Russian and U.S. space officials, looking for ways to save a buck on the gargantuan ISS, said Wednesday they were now considering stripping Mir for parts, to be used on the new International Space Station. But TIME science writer Jeffrey Kluger smells an excuse to keep Russia's never-say-deorbit space jalopy up a little while longer.