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The Russian Poezd
Yeltsin's Family
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Happy Times in HTML Hell
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A Subaka Says What?
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And Peter is a Distant Second
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The Zen of the Line
But He Went by the Name of Lenin
That Looks Just Like My Dom
Russian Adoptions by the Dozen
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Russian Visas
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Fidelity is Not a Brokerage
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Taking the tramvai
Cash Transfers Across Russia
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Do Your Spring Cleaning Now!
Reclama Nation
Russians Do Tours
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Pecktopan = Restaurants
Yevgeniy Primakov, Who?
101 Reasons Why NATO's War Sucks
A State Secrect: Women's Ages
Russians Blew up the US Embassy!
It's Dacha Time Again
I Love Me a Starlite Diner
Anything Goes at Night
Yesho Piedesat Gram Vodkoo
Shock Thearpy
IMF & Reform
Zoos Should Be for Politicans
There Was Giligan, And the Skipper Too
The Regions Exist?
Do You Believe the Media?
What is Russian Feminism?
Russian Music Rocks
Bye Bye Fast Food
Yest Klooch?
Addicts Are Addictive
Racism in Russia Too
An Education in Russian Politics
Orphans Are Lonely
Making Bliny
Nasty Newspapers
#51 If you get the jokes
Sick as a Dog
An Open Road Ahead
Iron Felix
You Can Buy (Almost) Anything in a Market
Education Makes Elections Happen
Ice Cream in Winter
Superstitions Are Sneaky
The Adventures of Flat Jon
Ice Fishing in Sibera
Death is Painful in Any Culture, Anywhere.
Lenin is Alive
Every Thing is Leaking
New Russians
Go Dollar!
Corruption is Endemic
The Joe-Cool Moscow Crew
Taxes Will Find You
I'm Driven Mad
Holidays Last and Last
It's All About Location
Taxies Take You Everywhere
Russian Religion Re-emerges


Russia, February 8, 1999

Those Crazy Russians

What Russians can do with a space station and a bottle of vodka.

I wanted to write an introduction to this article, but there isn't much to do aside from wondering how many vodka shots it takes to dream up something like this.

The Guardian February 3, 1999

Russia's giant moonbeam aims to light a global path

James Meek in Moscow and Ian Traynor in Bonn on a bid to bring heavenly glow down to earth

In the most audacious attempt to rearrange the natural order of the heavens since God said 'Let there be light', Russian scientists are to flood parts of Europe tomorrow night with the glow from an artificial moon. If all goes according to plan, a pool of light roughly nine miles wide and 25 miles long, projected from space, will illuminate a swath of north Germany and Belgium shortly after sunset. If it is a clear night the light, as bright as 10 moons, should be visible almost 200 miles from its epicentre. The cosmic spotlight will be projected from a giant mirrored parasol attached to a Russian Progress 'space tug' detached from the Mir space station. Cosmonauts on Mir will direct the device to reflect the sun's rays on to the earth.

Over a 13-hour period the experiment, known as Znamya 2.5, will illuminate six 'zones' on earth for four minutes each. Three of the zones are in southern Russia, northern Kazakhstan and Ukraine. The fourth zone, between Frankfurt in Germany and Liege in Belgium, will be lit from 6.50pm to 6.54pm local time. The light will later appear between Quebec and Winnipeg in Canada, before hitting the final zone between Calgary, and Devils Lake in the United States.

The only problem is that nobody outside Russia seems to know anything about the experiment. 'I've heard nothing about this, but that's not unusual because we often learn of the Russian space experiments from the papers or the TV,' said Raimund Lentzen, the head of the German Astronauts' Office near Cologne. A spokesman for the technology ministry in Bonn was equally nonplussed. 'It's a bit early for April Fool jokes but this sounds like one,' he said.

Like the Russians have enough cash to even print an instruction manual! What will they think of next??!

'It shouldn't be a problem,' said Ulf Mehrboldt, a German astronaut who has flown on two US space missions and spent one month on Mir in 1994. 'They don't need permission: the sun shines on Germany, too, and you can't ban that. 'The reflective parasol, about 25 yards in diameter, was built by a Russian firm called Cosmic Regatta. Asked whether the countries involved in the experiment knew about it, the company's deputy technical director, Oleg Saprykin, said: 'We've advertised our intentions on the Internet, we've told the media. I don't expect any protests. America financed part of the scientific research for this experiment, so they know what's going on.'

The reaction of colleagues overseas had been mixed, he added. 'On the one hand we get letters from astronomers giving us a telling-off for interfering with their observations. At the same time we get letters of gratitude from people thanking us for doing this and offering us work.' In thickly populated northern Europe, Mr Saprykin added, there would be lots of people to see the brightness of Znamya 2.5.

The idea behind the space lamp was eventually to use a network of reflectors to turn night into day over the cities of the Russian Arctic. But the technology involved is also vital to realise the long-held vision of generating electricity by channelling the sun's energy to ground stations. Making the pool of light stand still over one spot on the earth is exceptionally tricky, because it involves co-ordinating the movements of three objects moving at incredible speeds relative to each other - the sun, the earth, and the Progress spacecraft. The reflector has to be positioned in what scientists call the 'terminator', the orbital zone between day and night. Progress and Mir whiz overhead at 18,000 miles an hour relative to earth, so the reflector has to swivel rapidly to keep the sunlight on the same spot.

'There's a pretty limited period during which Progress can illuminate the earth - the period in which it crosses the terminator,' said Mr Saprykin. 'But the patch of light will be practically motionless, and will increase the illumination in the chosen area.'

The reflector will be aimed at the ground partly by instruments and partly by the Mir cosmonauts, Gennady Padalka and Sergei Avdeyev. One of the advantages of northern Europe compared to Russia, said Mr Saprykin, was that the cities shone more brightly at night, making it easier for the cosmonauts to direct the light.

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