Roscosmos Chief: Western Power Might Be Wrecking Our Spacecraft

Roscosmos Head Vladimir Popovkin. (Credit: Roscosmos)

Good God. It’s come to this. The head of the Russian space program is now trafficking in conspiracy theories:

Doomed Martian probe Phobos-Grunt, which was due to fulfill a Russian mission on one of the Red Planet’s moons, might have been a target of external influence. The probe failed while flying over the western hemisphere, outside of Russia’s control.

In an interview to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Popovkin, said that intended influence on the probe cannot be completely excluded.

”I do not want to blame anyone, but these days there are very powerful means to influence space vehicles,” he told the newspaper, adding that it is still unclear why the probe’s engine failed to start in the first place….

“We do not understand frequent failures of our space vehicles when they fly over the shadow, for Russia, part of the Earth,” Popovkin said. “Right there we are unable to see the vehicle and to receive its telemetry.”

Previously, reports emerged claiming that the probe station may have been influenced by powerful American radars in Alaska, which the vehicle was passing.

Evidence, please? Motives? Anything to back this up?

This is insulting. I can’t imagine Charlie Bolden, Jean-Jacques Dordain or the head of any major space agency saying anything like that. Or keeping their jobs if they did. Remarks like this indicate that the trust is gone. And space is too dangerous a place for that to happen.

We not only rely on the Russians for access to the space station, we’re inviting them in as full partners in future Mars exploration while they’re saying that we might have knocked out their own mission to the Red Planet.

Enough is enough. Congress should pass an emergency appropriation providing $400 million more for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program so we can field a shuttle replacement as soon as possible. That would fund the program near the President’s request. Legislators should also give NASA whatever money it needs to pay for an Atlas V so we’re not dependent on the Russians to launch future Mars spacecraft.