Surely it’s bad enough for the Russian scientists and engineers who built and launched the Phobos-Grunt mission to see the spacecraft stall in Earth orbit (see ‘Russia gets the red planet blues’). But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is now suggesting that those responsible for the failure need to be punished and perhaps criminally prosecuted, according to Reuters.
Don’t worry, he said in remarks to reporters, no one will be shot:
“I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment,” he said.
The tough-sounding words could be a signal to Lavochkin, which is the company that built Phobos-Grunt, the heaviest interplanetary mission ever. Now, instead of heading to the Mars moon Phobos to retrieve soil samples, the fuel-laden craft will become yet another piece of space junk to fall from the sky. (Although those who believe in miracles are still hoping that the Russian federal space agency Roscosmos can build on the recent radio contact made with the stricken probe.)