Want a bird's eye view of the space spectacle of a lifetime? Some 120 tickets priced at $6,500 each went on sale this week for a privately-organised American expedition to watch the fiery death of the Russian Mir space station as it hurtles into the south Pacific next month. Space enthusiasts, or so-called "citizen explorers" are invited to join researchers, astronomers and four Russian cosmonauts on a jet 30,000 feet above the earth in what organisers believe will be a unique trip. "Besides our desire to have fun witnessing an amazing historic sight, we are all about encouraging the private and commercial development of space exploration, which means including everyday citizen-explores," said Rick Citron on Wednesday. Citron, a Los Angeles lawyer and space exploration promoter, is organising the expedition with his brother Bob, founder of the commercial U.S. space firm SPACEHAB. The 15-year-old Mir space lab - once the crown jewel of the Soviet space programme - is to be brought down in March in a remote area of the south Pacific, some 1,850 miles east of New Zealand's southern tip. Two-thirds of the ageing and accident prone 130-tonne space station is expected to burn up in the controlled descent. But organisers of the viewing expedition expect the remainder to produce a pyrotechnic display to rival the Tunguska meteorite hitting the Earth in 1908. "We are going to be at the best location to observe the event and we are going to be hundreds of miles from even the beginning of the debris impact so there is really no danger of anything hitting us," said Bob. Tickets and information are available on the expedition Web site (http://www.MirReentry.com) or through travel agents, Reuters reports. Four Russian cosmonauts, including Sergey Zaletin who commanded the final mission to the Mir, and one of the chief architects of the Mir, Leonid Gorshkov, will be joining the expedition underlining the cooperation between the two former space race rivals.
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