Experts Defend U.S. Amid Insinuations of Sabotage of Russia's Mars Moon Probe
By Genalyn Corocoto | January 14, 2012 9:48 AM EST
Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will crash into the Indian Ocean sometime this weekend even as the allusions to foul play raised by the head of the country's space agency remain unresolved.
In an earlier interview, the head of Russia's space agency Roscosmos, raised the possibility that their satellite mission could have been sabotaged, insinuating that the United States was probably involved.
"We don't want to accuse anybody, but there are very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft now. The possibility they were used cannot be ruled out," Vladimir Popovkin said.
Popovkin noted "the frequent failure of our space launches, which occur at a time when they are flying over the part of Earth not visible from Russia, where we do not see the spacecraft and do not receive telemetric information, are not clear to us."
In an article at Slate.com, Konstantin Kakaes, a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation, said that the U.S. did not shoot down Russia's Mars probe even if it could have.
"The claim that Phobos-Grunt was shot down is absurd. But that's not because it would be hard to do. It's easy-if you can launch satellites-to destroy them, and to do so with deniability isn't much harder. Had the United States wanted to destroy Phobos-Grunt, it could have," Kakaes said.
However, he noted that it would be hard to understand why would the U.S. do it, since doing so "would have messed with a couple of scientific missions piggy-backed onto the Russian probe: a Chinese Mars orbiter and an experiment run by the Planetary Society, an American space advocacy group," Kakaes wrote.
"More importantly, there is a global taboo on war in space. The U.S. would not have broken it arbitrarily to destroy a scientific probe. No country has ever attacked another's satellite," he added. Lastly, he noted that the U.S. has by far the most invested in space. That gives it the most to lose, he said.
In another article at Time Science, writer Jeffrey Kluger said that space watchers in both the U.S. and Russia were rooting for this mission to succeed, and that the loss of Phobos-Grunt is equally big for space science as a whole.
"It's worth noting that the U.S. would have nothing to gain and a whole lot to lose by monkeying around with a Russian Mars probe - especially since we're now dependent on Roscosmos rockets to ferry us to the NASA-built International Space Station," Kluger said.
Martravel.org, meanwhile, said the Russian Space Web has allegedly reported that there is a U.S. law which prohibits NASA from assisting Russia and the ESA in the recovery of Phobos-Grunt specifically because the Chinese satellite Yinghou-1 is onboard.
NASA has not yet issued an official statement on the matter, but according to marstravel.com, this would be contradictory to what Doug McCuistion, NASA's director for Mars Exploration Program has stated that they have offered assistance.
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