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DATE=2/1/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA SPACE (S-ONLY) NUMBER=2-258665 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russia has launched a cargo craft to its Mir space station in preparation for an expected manned mission to the orbiter next month. V-O-A's Peter Heinlein has the story from Moscow. TEXT: A Progress cargo ship blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Tuesday, carrying food, fuel and oxygen to Mir. Officials say the craft is scheduled to dock with the orbiter Thursday. If the automated docking fails, an emergency crew will be sent into orbit in about two weeks to perform the operation manually. The 14-year old space station has been orbiting the earth unmanned since it was partially shut down last August. But space officials say the supplies now on their way are in preparation for the arrival of three cosmonauts in late March. The United States urged Russia to close Mir and instead concentrate its meager budget on the new international space station. But the government decided to keep the orbiter open after finding a foreign investor willing to pay $20 million dollars for one more flight. (Signed) NEB/PFH/GE 01-Feb-2000 05:35 AM EDT (01-Feb-2000 1035 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .