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Medvedev: Punishment awaits those behind Russian Mars failure

medvedev.jpgSurely 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.)

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    Michael Carroll said:

    I was saddened to hear Medvedev’s comments. Space exploration has always been difficult. During the “golden years” of Soviet planetary exploration (at the height of the Cold War) punishment was never meted out upon IKI, NPO Lavochkin, etc. Instead, funding was steady and attempts were continued. I think Soviet success, especially at Venus, resulted from consistent support from government, not from threat of punishment.

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    J Gary Fox said:

    A terrible tragedy and waste of talent and resources.

    There have been too many Russian Mars failures to blame it on this or that component. There has to be a flaw in how the equipment is developed and TESTED. The success of the Apollo manned flight program was due to the fact that NASA imposed “all up testing”. That is the entire package of rocket, equipment; electronics was put together and tested. And tested again and again.

    These failures have to be caused by an imbedded institutional testing failure.

    “ Why is there never enough time to do it Right, but always enough time to do it Over?”