HIGHTOWER: Get Your Ticket to MIR

Time for another trip into the Far, Far, Far-Out Frontiers of Free Enterprise.Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you on the ultimate vacation -- outer space itself! Tired of summering in Provence? Have St. Moritz and the South Sea Isles become too humdrum? How about a week or two aboard the beautiful MIR space station, orbiting earth 16 times a day, 225 miles above everyone else? Well, if Mr. Walt Anderson has his way, MIR could soon become literally an out-of-this-world vacation spot for the rich and beautiful, THE place to go, don't you know.Knight-Ridder Newspapers report that Anderson, a wheeler-dealer in the telecommunications trade, already has anted-up $21 million to convert the abandoned, 14-year old, Russian MIR into the first for-profit space station in the known universe. But wait -- wasn't MIR abandoned because it was a wreck, having suffered a major fire, power failures, and even a collision with a supply craft, and weren't the Russians planning to scrap it?Yes, but one man's junk is another's treasure. Anderson says: "Yes, it's old, and yes, it has a few problems. Yet any old building has that. You don't tear down an old building because it has a few heating and air-conditioning problems. You renovate it." Maybe so, Walt, but this is going to be a bit dicier than your usual fixer-upper. At present, MIR's orbit is not stable, it has a pressurization leak, corrosion on the hull, metal fatigue, and chemical contamination. As an astronaut who lived on MIR put it: "Good luck getting the insurance."Still, it has one of the world's best views. Plus, Anderson and partners are prepared to sink "vast sums of money" into refurbishing it, and there's always the snob appeal of the jet set being able to ask: "You have been to MIR, haven't you darling?"This is Jim Hightower saying ... Get your ticket now -- round trip for one is a mere $25 million!

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