MOSCOW (AP) -- Russian ground controllers lost contact for nearly 20 hours with the Mir space station before re-establishing communication Tuesday, allaying fears the accident-prone, 140-ton vessel might have spun dangerously out of control.
It was the latest mishap for the nearly 15-year-old space station, which the Russian government reluctantly had decided to bring down in a controlled descent in late February.
Mission Control's last contact with the Mir had been at 6:40 p.m. (10:40 a.m. EST) Monday, said Valery Lyndin, a spokesman for Mission Control. Several successive attempts to restore the link later Monday failed, but on Tuesday afternoon, ground controllers managed to link up with the Mir three times.
Lyndin said the information received during the hookups showed that the station had not lost pressure -- calming fears that the loss of communications could signal that the station was spinning out of control and could crash to Earth.
"The Mir will not fall on your head on New Year's Eve," Mission Control chief Vladimir Solovyov told reporters. "The latest communications session showed that we are controlling events, not the other way around."
Solovyov said the station's batteries had somehow lost nearly all their power, leaving too little energy for the Mir to communicate.
Controllers then switched off energy-consuming systems so that more energy could be directed toward communications with the ground.
Recharging the batteries through the station's solar panels should take until Wednesday morning, he said. But he said it remained unclear what caused the power shortage.
Observers have been worried about the Mir's safety for a long time. However, after a fire and near-disastrous collision with an unmanned cargo ship in 1997 followed by a series of computer glitches, the Mir had been running relatively smoothly.
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