Mir, uncertainty and doubt to be streamed on Web

Millions of people are expected to log on to watch online coverage of the Mir spacestation as it plunges back to Earth on Friday

Millions of computer users are expected to log on to the Internet to watch the fate of the Mir space station this Friday, as latest reports suggest that areas of South America could be hit by falling debris.

US Web site Mirreentry.com plans to show a live video-stream of the crash-landing of the 137 tonne space station. It has hired aeroplanes and camera crews, and plans to be able to record Mir's fiery descent -- hopefully into the Pacific Ocean -- for posterity. Re-entry is expected to take place at 6.30am GMT on Friday.

Between five and ten million people are expected to log on to Mirreentry.com in the three days after splashdown. Mirreentry.com is working with a range of technology and service providers, who are confident that it will be able to cope with the interest. "NaviSite's streamOS technology will help to ensure the performance, scalability and seamless viewing that an event of this magnitude demands," said Joel Rosen, president and chief executive officer of NaviSite, which will be helping to stream the footage.

NaviSite was also behind the Web cast of Madonna's Brixton Academy gig. According to Microsoft, the Web cast drew nine million page impressions.

Interest in Mir's return to Earth will be heightened by concerns that the falling space station may not land where it is meant to. Russian space command hope that those parts of Mir which do not burn up as it travels at high speed through the atmosphere will fall into uninhabited areas of the Pacific, thanks to a series of carefully-timed "breaking manoeuvres". However, it has admitted there is a chance that debris -- which could be as large as a Mini car -- could fall on areas of South America, Japan, New Zealand or Australia.

Japanese residents have been advised by government officials to stay indoors during Mir's descent. The likelihood of parts of space station landing on Japan has been estimated as "one in 100 million". However, Russia has taken out a £200m insurance policy just in case anything goes wrong.

Mirreentry.com is also backed by HD3, Inktomi, Interliant and Nxtcom.

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