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

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory 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.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid