The rough ballistic landing of Soyuz TMA-11 is still getting media attention (most somewhat sensationalist, with reports of the crew being “lucky to survive”). One of the staff at Novosti Kosmonavtiki is critical of this sensationalism in News №699:
23/04/2008/00:33 – Soyuz TMA-11 crew alive, not because of accident, but through technology reliability
On Tuesday evening the Interfax news agency has filed a report with “details” on the ballistic descent trajectory of the spacecraft Soyuz TMA-11 which took place on April 19. The information is citing “a source close to a commission to investigate the causes of what happened."
The essence of the message is reflected in its title: “Soyuz crew nearly died". A message is contained in the “evidence” as to why this could happen.
I do not want to even refer to the “technical details of the incident” - until the findings are published commission giving the reasons why the Soyuz TMA-11 deorbited in a ballistic descent mode, they are all just assumptions, not facts. And, very controversial and unambiguous.
But about the title I want to say a few words.
No one will disagree that any flight into space is full of dangers and no one will give a 100% guarantee that it will end successfully. Especially when unexpected contingencies happen. But...
But the normal mode of ballistic descent is intended precisely for this. Yes, it causes cosmonauts certain inconveniences, but saves their lives. And this is most important. That means you must not dramatize what happened with the Soyuz TMA-11.
As early as 1960 the writer Gennadii Semennikhin wrote a poem (of course, this is not Pushkin, but for this situation it reflects the gist of what happened):
Everything does not always go smoothly,
They do not always return in time,
But the orbit will be in order,
If there is a flame of courage.
Не всегда всё свершается гладко,
Не всегда возвращаются в срок,
Но орбита будет в порядке,
Если мужества есть огонёк.
Close to midnight Roscosmos responded to Interfax’s report that by that time had been republished in many electronic publications.
“The reports about the threat to the life of astronauts who returned on Saturday from the ISS – based on unaudited data – do not stand up to scrutiny from the technical point of view and generally harm the Russian space industry,” said the head of Roscosmos press service Aleksander Vorobyov. “The information published with reference to the unnamed and very incompetent source, is nothing more than negative PR. Publications of this kind are directed against the implementation of the Russian-American agreement on the purchase by NASA from Russia of Soyuz and Progress spacecraft after the cessation of shuttle flights to the ISS,” Vorobyov said.
It is probably quite close to the truth. One should always remember the old truth: “Look for who benefits.”
“Space crew’s hard landing raises hard questions”, James Oberg, MSNBC.com, 21/4.
“Superstitions run rife after Soyuz mishap”, Yahoo News/ABC News, 22/4. I would have doubts about the veracity of Australian Sky and Space Magazine editor Dave Reneke’s remarks – he seems a bit biased (and being an astronomer does not make one a manned spaceflight expert!).