ITAR-TASS reports that Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has taken personal control of the investigation into the failure of Phobos-Grunt, the ambitious planetary mission to fell into the South Pacific on Sunday instead of flying to Mars.
“I expect from the Federal Space Agency a promised report on the reasons for the Phobos-Grunt crash, the names of culprits and an overview on the prospects of development of the space industry through 2030,” Rogozin said.
Culprits, huh? This could get really ugly. Hopefully, the hard-line leader will be able to distinguish between acts of corruption that might have impacted the project and honest mistakes made in a decrepit system that has been rotted to the core by decades of underfunding, ineptitude and neglect.
Russia needs to rebuild its planetary program, attract a new generation of engineers to its space program, and develop missions more suited to actual abilities. They won’t be able to do that if engineers are looking at jail time for their mistakes. And launching a spacecraft as complicated Phobos-Grunt when you haven’t flown a successful planetary mission in 27 years is not the way to get back into the game.