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Government Monitoring MIR Splashdown

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that the government has established a specialist officials committee to monitor the return of the Russian space station, Mir, back to earth.

Helen Clark that while the Mir space station posed negligible risk to New Zealand, the officials were closely monitoring the considerable information on the satellite's progress provided by Russian and American space agencies.

"The latest information suggests that the satellite should splashdown in the South Pacific Ocean around the 18th and 20th of March, although it could be delayed another week after that.

"The Russians are aiming to undertake a controlled re-entry into the mid-latitude South Pacific ocean, some 4000 kilometres east of Stewart Island. Precise information on the location and date, however, will not be available until a day or two beforehand. Prior to that time, notifications will be sent to aircraft and shipping in the area.

"The planned final orbit will take Mir on a trajectory over Japan and Fiji, then towards Argentina if it overshoots. The closest it is expected to come to New Zealand is 1500 kilometres to the north-east on its final orbit.

"There are no radioactive, biological, chemical or other dangerous materials on board, so in that respect it poses no danger.

"While we are confident that the Mir space station poses no risk to New Zealand, the expert officials committee will continue to closely assess all the available information," Helen Clark said.

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