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Mir crew calls off light experiment after space mirror fails to unfold

MOSCOW (AP) -- An exotic space mirror expected to flash a beam of reflected sunlight down to Earth failed to unfold after repeated attempts by the Mir space station's crew Thursday, forcing the experiment to be called off for the day.

The mirror was supposed to work like a tiny, artificial moon, said Mission Control spokesman Valery Lyndin.The experiment could also help develop bigger mirrors that could be used to illuminate sun-starved cities or light up emergency areas to ease rescuers' work. In the more distant future, such devices may act as "solar sails," using solar wind to push spaceships through space.

Mir cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Sergey Avdeyev started the experiment by jettisoning a Progress cargo ship, with the mirror attached, from the station just after 5 a.m. EST.

Just over an hour later, they sent a remote command to unfold the mirror, made of a thin membrane covered by a metal layer. The segments of the round, silver flower-like structure unfolded only partially, apparently snagging on the cargo ship's antenna.