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

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month 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.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid