Monday, November 28, 2011

Criminal Charges Possible In Russian Failures

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev raised the prospect of criminal prosecution for space mishaps following a series of failed launches that have embarrassed Russia, according to reports published over the weekend.

The apparent loss earlier this month of a probe bound for the Martian moon Phobos is the latest in a string of failures that include one which threatened to force an evacuation of the International Space Station.

In late August a Soyuz rocket similar to those used to launch crews to the station failed during launch of a Russian supply ship headed to the outpost. Soyuz flights to the station were grounded by an investigation and did not resume until earlier this month. The station would have been evacuated around Nov. 22 if the Soyuz fleet had not returned to service. The Soyuz is the only system capable of sending crews to the outpost in the wake of U.S. shuttle fleet retirement.

Multimillion-dollar satellites were also lost in rocket failures in February and last December.

"Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty," Medvedev told reporters in televised comments.

"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.

Reuters published an account over the weekend.

The global news organization said Medvedev has made similar calls for strict punishment after disasters blamed on carelessness, corruption and problems with Russia's rusty infrastructure, such as a riverboat sinking in July that killed 122.

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