News / Science & Technology

Is Russia’s Space Program Viable?

U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit (L), Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko (C) and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew, wave before the launch of the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft at Baikonur cosmodrome, December 21, 20
U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit (L), Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko (C) and Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers, members of the International Space Station (ISS) crew, wave before the launch of the Soyuz TMA-03M spacecraft at Baikonur cosmodrome, December 21, 20

Russia is the only country ferrying astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and back since NASA retired its aging fleet. But Russia's space agency has experienced a string of mishaps in recent months. Some analysts are worrying about the reliability of the Russian space program.

The November launch of the Phobos-Grunt probe from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppe was meant to take Russia back to deep space after a decade-long absence.

To the embarrassment of Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, the more than $163 million probe failed to leave earth orbit on its intended trajectory towards a moon of Mars, to retrieve soil samples. Instead, the satellite spiraled aimlessly out of control before its batteries ran out, crashing last month into the Pacific Ocean.  

Some Russian experts originally blamed U.S. radar for interfering with the probe’s onboard computer system, causing it to crash.

Russian Vice Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin brought up the theory, soon after the probe's failure. He said Russian space craft often fail during the part of the flight invisible to and uncontrolled by Russia’s space agency.  

Speaking recently on state-run television, satellite communications executive Sergei Pekhterev said he does not believe the United States would intentionally try to damage Russian space craft.

He said in order to make a satellite go down under artificial conditions, very complex work needs to be done. "It is really hard to imagine that the United States has spent billions of dollars to hit Phobos-Grunt," Pekhterev said.  He added that he doubts it would happen.

New Eurasia Foundation analyst Andrei Kortunov dismissed the accusations more directly.

"In every country you will find a couple of freaks who will tell you that it is the international conspiracy to make all the problems," said Kortunov. "If the United States was in a position to shoot down a Russian satellite they would not need a strategic-weapons program to develop. It is something that does not exist. Those who are thinking in these terms are crazies."

Earlier this week, Roscosmos blamed the Phobos-Grunt failure on heavily charged particles in near space. Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin, says the particles interfered with the probe's computer memory. Popovkin also said the initial investigation found foreign parts played a role in the satellite’s demise.

Analyst Kortunov said using outside parts is necessary.

"It is also clear that no country in the world can produce everything it needs," he said. "We have to rely on each other, we have to trust each other."

Other recent failures include last summer’s loss of  a cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station. The cargo failed to leave earth orbit, crashing into Siberia.  

Pekhterev told Russian TV the country's space agency does not have the financial support it used to and therefore mishaps keep occurring.  

He says during Soviet times, there was more funding to support the country’s space program. "Now, there are no funds to support these expensive facilities that used to involve hundreds of scientists and crew," he added.

President Dmitry Medvedev has acknowledged Russia’s space program needs more funding and has promised an increase for the organization as part of his modernization effort.  According to government figures, Roscosmos received more than $3 billion in 2011, nearly triple the amount it received in 2007.

But Roscosmos has revealed the next manned launch, using a Soyuz rocket, to the International Space Station has been delayed due to technical problems.

Kortunov, with the new Eurasia foundation, says Russia has experienced setbacks, but that should not be too worrisome.

"There were some issues, but this [Soyuz] is the most reliable vehicle designed by man," Kortunov said. "If you look at the number of launches compared to the track record of the shuttle."

Kortunov says the way to guarantee the best space program is for international cooperation. "We must make sure we work together," he stressed.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs