TOKYO -- A Japanese firm has bought Moscow's only surplus Mir space station and an experimental science module for $10 million to help promote Japan's space industry, the company's president said Wednesday.
The craft is one of only two Mir space stations built by the Soviet Union. The other was launched in February 1986 and now is orbiting Earth.
'The Soviet Union offered to sell it and we purchased it as a symbol of cooperation in space research between the two countries,' said Yutaka Horie, president of the Horie Group, a private trading company specializing in the space industry.
Horie told United Press International in an interview that he will make the space station available to the Japanese space industry to help promote research.
The initial reaction from the government-financed National Space Development Agency was cool.
'Our basic policy is to promote cooperation with the United States. We have a joint project under way to conduct research in space in 1991,' said Keiko Omura, spokeswoman for the agency.
Horie said he purchased the Soviet-built space station and accompanying Kvant module, which were displayed at the World Design Expo held recently in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.
'I hope the Soviet craft will help the Japanese industry promote its manned space flight program,' he said. 'The Soviet side said it will offer its space technology on a commercial basis, and we took it because Japan is far behind the United States and the Soviet Union in space technology and its development is costly and time-consuming.'
Japan has earmarked $2.1billion to develop the experimental module for the space station under the sponsorship of the National Space Development Agency.
Horie said that 'it doesn't make sense to display the craft only for curiosity seekers, and we plan to make it available to the Japanese space industry.'
Horie, who toured Soviet space facilities last summer, said he has invited officials of the Soviet space program to Japan to help promote industry-to-industry cooperation.
The purchased craft is identical to the Mir space station launched in February 1986 and now orbiting Earth. Soviet astronauts established records, staying in space aboard the station for more than a year.
The Soviet Union agreed to allow a Japanese journalist to board the Mir space station in 1991 under an agreement signed with a Japanese commercial TV station.