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Russian space probe failure: Should someone go to jail?

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he wants to 'punish those guilty' for the failures of the Phobos-Grunt space probe and other space mishaps that have embarrassed Russia. 

By Maria KiselyovaReuters / December 2, 2011

Russian space engineers work to prapare the unmanned Phobos-Grunt probe on the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, in early November. The daring Russian mission to fly an unmanned probe to Phobos, a moon of Mars, and fly samples of its soil back to Earth was derailed right after its launch by equipment failure.

Russian space agency/AP

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Moscow

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev raised the prospect of criminal prosecution for space mishaps on Saturday following a series of failed launches that have embarrassed Russia.

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Earlier this month, a probe designed to bring back soil samples from the Mars moon Phobos got stuck in Earth's orbit, leaving Russia's first interplanetary mission in years with almost no chance of success.

The probe failure came less than three months after a cargo ship carrying food and fuel to the International Space Station burned up in the atmosphere shortly after launch.

"Recent failures are a strong blow to our competitiveness. It does not mean that something fatal has happened, it means that we need to carry out a detailed review and punish those guilty," Medvedev told reporters in televised comments.

"I am not suggesting putting them up against the wall like under Josef Vissarionovich (Stalin), but seriously punish either financially or, if the fault is obvious, it could be a disciplinary or even criminal punishment," he said.

Medvedev has recently made similar calls for strict punishment after disasters blamed on carelessness, corruption and problems with Russia's rusty infrastructure, such as a riverboat sinking in July that killed 122.

(Editing by Steve Gutterman and Sophie Hares)

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