Satellite in Mir Miss

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MOSCOW: The Russian Space Agency may want to consider buying extra collision insurance for the long-suffering Mir. The station was nearly creamed Tuesday by a 350-pound U.S. satellite traveling along a similar orbit.

The close encounter wasn't quite as bad as June's supply-ship bust-up, but it did send Mir's three-man crew scurrying into their escape capsule, where they remained until the satellite shot overhead at a hasty 17,500 miles per hour. Russian space officials said the satellite came within 500 yards of plowing into the cosmonaut's front room.

In a bizarre reversal of roles, NASA downplayed the near miss and pointed out Mir had about 1,000 yards of headroom. "It wasn't anything major. This happens every month," said NASA spokesman John Lawrence. But the incident provided a reminder of the hazards of space traffic where an object the size of a grain of sand can hit with the impact of a .38-caliber bullet.