[FPSPACE] Vinogradov speaks out
bhen at scarlet.be
Mon Feb 19 04:14:01 EST 2007
Some remarkably candid comments from Expedition 13 commander Pavel
Vinogradov in a recent interview with "Novosti kosmonavtiki". A quick
translation of the most interesting excerpts :
Q : Would you like to fly again?
Of course, but will I? We have to make room for young cosmonauts, [but] they
have nothing to fly on. [Instead] we're selling seats to foreigners. I don't
understand the policy of Roskosmos [Russian Federal Space Agency] at all. It
would be understandable if we sold those seats and made a profit, but we're
selling them at prices that are only enough to maintain the system. I get
the impression that our manned space programme is in its death throes. What
is being said by Roskosmos now, including the Directorate of Manned
Spaceflight, [will lead us to] an impasse. We're being forced to maintain a
six-man crew on the station. For that we already have to start building
ships now, moreover old ones, at the insistence of the Americans, who don't
want to fly on the modified [Soyuz]. In 2012 the Americans will have built
their ship ... and we'll be left with our old ship and no one will need us.
Q : You mean that Roskosmos does not support [RKK]Energiya's initiative to
thoroughly modernize Soyuz, to build a new transportation system? They don't
Yes, and we should already be past the stage of supporting initiatives, we
should be rolling up our sleeves and getting down to business. After all,
time is ticking away. Another thing I don't like is that designers, who
should be designing advanced technical systems on state orders, are
beginning to count dollars, who owes who money and how much. Engineers
shouldn't do that. And the fact that all the seats [on Soyuz] are being sold
and we can't fly our young cosmonauts is a careless policy. We could launch
foreigners say every two missions. And if there are many tourists, we
should … build dedicated ships that each can carry two of them on short
visiting missions. That would allow us to replenish our cosmonaut corps.
Right now we're trying to form crews consisting of cosmonauts with little
experience. Yurchikhin is going up with Kotov. [Yurchikhin] has already
flown on the Shuttle, but has barely seen our segment and he'll have a hard
time being expedition commander. The next crew includes Sergei Volkov, who's
been in the team for almost 10 years. Of his class only Lonchakov has flown.
I think we have to completely change the system of training cosmonauts, but
we have to pump money into that. What is going on in Star City right now is
beyond all belief ... There are simply no people who can train cosmonauts. I
hope to God the veterans can keep things going... Things are not much better
at [RKK] Energiya. I get the impression that most people at Energiya work
just for the sake of working and not to obtain results. There is no movement
forward, no ideology, which, of course, has to be generated by Roskosmos....
It is simply a disgrace that there is not a single person in the Directorate
of Manned Spaceflight who really understands what's going on in space. In
the analogous NASA directorate out of the eight positions the six most
important ones are held by former astronauts. There is not even a single
cosmonaut in Roskosmos whatsoever. I think we're facing a collapse, the more
so because half a year ago Roskosmos' relations with [RKK] Energiya took a
turn for the worse. [RKK Energiya head] N.N. Sevastyanov, who was initially
supported by [Roskosmos chief] A.N. Perminov, began ... generating
uncomfortable ideas, disturbing the peace at Roskosmos...
... In five or six years time the Americans will tell us "goodbye". They're
only tolerating us now because they need time to build their Orion. After
that they'll send us you know where with our 40-year old Soyuz. All,
absolutely all astronauts who have flown on Soyuz say : "This is extremely
high class" [literally what Vinogradov says in English ; he apparently means
the opposite]. It's a shock for them. And we're talking here not just about
ordinary people, many of them are test pilots who've been through a lot and
have something to compare Soyuz with. When they pulled Jeff [Williams] out
of the return capsule he said : "Jesus, is this what you call a soft
landing? I wonder what a hard landing is like then"....
...Why do we need to increase the size of the crew? What will they be doing?
[At a recent meeting of the Council of Chief Designers] Sevastyanov and
Solovyov showed only two slides related to experiments. This is exactly what
we should be preparing for 2009, to keep the crew occupied with scientific
experiments and not just have them service an ageing and excessively big
station. We are now flying with zero efficiency. We're carrying out 30-year
old experiments. Even if they are very important, do they move us forward? I
have no idea. The results disappear into all kinds of PhDs. The Americans
are doing experiments that we did back in the Salyut and Mir days. Why?
Can't they find the results [in Russia]? Or don't they want to? This is
amazing. I always thought we have to fly in the interests of science, to
produce results needed by many people, and all we're doing is keeping the
station in working order. 62 % of our time goes to servicing on-board
systems, 15 % to personal needs and only 23 % to science … One would think
that if the crew size is increased those percentages would change in the
favour of science, but no! The [long] lists of experiments that should be
queuing up to be carried out on board are not there, nor will they be in
2009, because money has to be invested in them already now and this is not
happening. And so the six-man crew will be wasting its time...."
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