While Russia continues to be under fire after it suspended all manned flights until 2022 amid a spiraling scandal that involves cosmonauts, the Kremlin insists it has nothing to do with the investigations into what it calls a criminal act involving three of its cosmonauts and other contractors, alleging the three men were sabotaged by terrorists.
In the days since the suspension, there has been very little official word from Russia. But on Thursday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vowed investigators will try to find the ones responsible, not the entire astronaut corps.
“In connection with the serious accident at Baikonur, a warning has been issued for the entire space program. In all cases of accidents, it is necessary to deliver our full support to national space agencies to ensure full recovery. None of these accidents, like those in 2005 and 1997, can be an indicator of our ability to work safely,” he said, according to state news agency Sputnik.
Russia suspended all manned flights, including shuttles leaving the Earth orbit station, after detecting “irregularities” in two Soyuz spacecraft, one of which was carrying three astronauts. Tests on the two other crew members, U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, revealed no signs of foul play.
The head of Russia’s space agency, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote on his Telegram social network that the launch of astronauts in the two Soyuz capsules should be halted until new accidents are investigated and any link with international terrorism is ruled out.
Rogozin said that measures are in place to ensure safe space travel.
“In a nutshell, we have tried to ensure all risk for the crew and allow for proper preparation, rotation and flight operations. So far, nothing bad has happened and this day won’t come. However, if such risks arise, we must take quick action.”
Rogozin insisted the suspended missions are not related to an investigation of the crew last month that was part of a military exercise and which was captured by Russia’s Defense Ministry.
Rogozin insisted the moratorium would not affect trips on the MS-Soyuz spacecraft.
While Russia continues to face a cloud of suspicion over a possible connection between the latest mishap and those earlier accidents, NASA is getting ready to dock a spacecraft to the International Space Station.
The so-called Crew Dragon capsule will carry a U.S. crew to the space station, and the expected launch date is early next year. NASA also is in the midst of plans to land spacecraft on the moon using a modified version of the capsule.
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