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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years 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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs