The crazy drama going on back in the USSR and why we are paying for it

According to Russian media, Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin was hospitalized for exhaustion. At the same time he checked in with a bandaged head, in itself an unusual symptom for over work, Aleksander Paramonov, Deputy Head of Star City was fingered as possibly being involved in incident that led to the hospital visit. No one’s talking on the record, but word is Popovkin got smacked in the head by a bottle during a drunken brawl over his choice for Roscosmos spokesperson, the nubile 27 year-old former model, uh-huh, shown next to him above.

(Parabolic Arc) — Popovkin took over the struggling space agency last April after an embarrassing series of rocket failures that have continued during his tenure. That string of failures continued under his tenure, the most embarrassing being the loss of Russia’s much touted Phobos-Grunt probe, the nation’s first mission to Mars in 15 years. The new Roscosmos head appointed Ana Vedischeva to be his personal press secretary last June, a move that resulted in outrage among agency insiders …

Something’s popping off alright, in Mr Popov’s trousers no doubt. But the program he took over? The Russian space progam is falling apart, that’s obvious to anyone. They’re losing rockets, flunking safety tests, and generally fucking up. All of which would be reason to celebrate if this were still the Cold War era. But it’s not, and I’ll tell you why it matters: we depend on these clowns, we are paying them billions to get our astronuats into orbit, at least until SpaceX or some other US new space company has an operational ground to orbit rocket able to loft payload and people. Which means Ms. Vedischeva and her two combatants are all being paid, and paid well, by US taxpayers.  

Meanwhile, here in the US, our space agency is paralyzed, caught in a political pissing match that takes traditional ideological roles and flips them around to the point of absurdity. We have a progressive President who inherited a manned space program in tatters, totally dependent on an unsafe, costly aging shuttle on its last legs and no replacement in sight. Said President then followed the advice of non partisan NASA experts, many of them Republicans, and requested relatively modest funding to more quickly develop private industries that could do the same job the shuttle did for a much lower fixed fee, allowing NASA to accurately budget and plan cutting edge missions.

That effort is being held up and Obama taken to task by purported small government convervatives who, it turns out, love themselves some Big Gubmint space-bucks and insist NASA develop a giant multibillion dollar rocket the old fashioned cost-plus way that most people in NASA say they don’t want or need. Even if its funded for now, that rocket will probably never be finished, but it will cost so much to decide it won’t be finished that it’s already gutting planetary science, from Mars to the Kuiper Belt.

Welcome to the 21st century folks. The age of wonders. I’m pretty sure this is not the one giant leap Neil Armstrong had in mind when the Eagle sat down on the Sea of Tranquility in 1969. As a species, right now, we don’t deserve a fucking space program.


  1. slc1 says

    The problem is that manned space flight has no scientific value and should be scaled back, according to Un. of Maryland physics professor Bob Park and Un. of Texas physics professor Steven Weinberg. Of course, according to the Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, Park and by extension Weinberg don’t know what they are talking about.

  2. Trebuchet says

    No worries, Newt will have a moon base for us by 2020. And $2.50/gallon gas.

    I sure hope one or more of the private ventures can start showing results real soon.

  3. KG says

    I was going to raise the objection – but why would private companies take the huge risks of sending people into space – not only expensive if you accidentally kill some of them, but terrible PR? Than it struck me: zero-G (and low-G) porn.

  4. rikitiki says

    Oh…and ‘Back in the USSR’ was on the Beatles’ “White Album”.
    …just sayin’

  5. Trebuchet says

    I was going to raise the objection – but why would private companies take the huge risks of sending people into space – not only expensive if you accidentally kill some of them, but terrible PR?

    Actually, the Rutan/Branson SpaceShip2 has already killed several people, on the ground, when the rocket blew up in a test. They’re still continuing, although delayed.

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