Russia blamed radiation on Tuesday for a computer glitch that doomed its Mars moon mission, but space industry experts cast doubt on the findings of an investigation into the crash of what was to be Moscow’s first deep space mission in two decades.
The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was stranded in Earth orbit after launch in November and crashed into the Pacific Ocean this month, one of five recent botched Russian launches.
Space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin also said Moscow would postpone the next U.S.-Russian manned mission to the International Space Station by one month from March over technical problems during testing of the Soyuz spacecraft.
The delay, which officials said was due to glitches with the Soyuz descent capsule, is likely to fuel concerns over relying solely on Russia to take astronauts into orbit.
“The most likely reason, in the opinion of the commission, was the local impact of heavily charged space particles that led to a failure in the memory of the main onboard computer in the second stage of flight,” Popovkin told Russian news agencies in Voronezh, a town 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow.
A burst of space radiation caused the onboard computers to reboot and go into standby mode, he said.
Popovkin said foreign-made counterfeit or defective microchips were partly to blame for the failure of the $165-million (104 million pound) spacecraft, designed to retrieve soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos.
The budget for Russia’s space programme, he said, would be 150-200 billion roubles a year until 2030.
EXPERTS CAST DOUBT
Popovkin had earlier hinted that foreign sabotage might be behind the failure, in an apparent attempt to deflect blame.
Experts said Moscow was blaming external factors for the loss of its ambitious Mars mission to distract from chronic failings with its once-pioneering industry