- Malaysia Airlines pilots sometimes left cockpit door unlocked: U.S. businessman
- PHILLIPS: The benefits of defying ‘common wisdom’
- Judge strikes down Arkansas abortion law — nation’s toughest — as unconstitutional
- Court: Tenn. must recognize 3 same-sex marriages
- Russia claims to have downed U.S. drone over Crimea region; Pentagon denies
- John Daly shoots 90 at PGA Tour event: ‘I’m falling apart’
- Police: Man arrested in West Virginia may be linked to Alexandria killings
- Smile: Equipping cops with body-mounted cameras gains steam in Calif., N.Y.
- Obama to sign bill cutting taxpayer money for party conventions
- Half of Americans worried about second Cold War: poll
Cosmonaut: Russia needs space innovation now
MOSCOW (AP) - Russia risks losing its edge in space by relying exclusively on Soviet-era achievements and doing little to design new spacecraft, a Russian cosmonaut warned Monday as the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the first human spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.
Svetlana Savitskaya, who flew two space missions in 1982 and 1984 and became the first woman to make a spacewalk, harshly criticized the Kremlin for paying little attention to achievements in space after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
While Russian’s aging spacecraft will serve as the only link to the International Space Station after the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis closes out the U.S. program this summer, the Americans are working on a next-generation space ship and Russia has done virtually nothing to design a replacement to the 43-year old Soyuz spacecraft, Savitskaya said.
“If we won’t be catching up on what we have missed in the last 20 years … we will be left with nothing,” Savitskaya told a news conference.
Space officials and astronauts from around the world arrived in Moscow to pay tributes to Gagarin, whose 108-minute flight on April 12, 1961 spurred America to race for the moon.
“Without Gagarin going first, I probably wouldn’t have gone to the moon,” said Thomas Stafford, commander of the Apollo 10 mission that approached within eight miles (13 kilometers) of the moon in May 1969, the last U.S. mission before the U.S. moon landing three months later.
Before Gagarin’s flight, many scientists were worried that humans wouldn’t be able to survive in outer space.
“Some psychologists and other scientists said that a man could go mad when he is left to face the endless universe,” said Boris Chertok, who was a deputy of Sergei Korolyov, the father of the Soviet space program.
Technological challenges also looked daunting after numerous equipment failures in experimental missions preceding Gagarin’s flight. “We realized that the risks were very high,” Chertok told reporters last week.
Chertok, 99, said the Soviet design team did all they could to minimize risks, but admitted that they still were too high by modern standards. He said he wouldn’t have signed papers clearing the flight if it were to happen today.
Oleg Ivanovsky, who oversaw the construction and launch of the Vostok spacecraft that carried Gagarin, told The Associated Press that a risk assessment study put the odds of success of Gagarin's mission at only 50 percent.
The Soviet authorities had prepared several versions of the communique telling the world about the flight: one in case of success, another one in case of problems that could lead to Gagarin’s landing in another country and a third one in case of a complete failure, said Vitaly Davydov, a deputy chief of the Russian space agency.
The Soviets were so obsessed about secrecy that they even lied about the location of launch pad used to send Gagarin’s rocket into space, even though U.S. spy planes had photographed it a long time before.
TWT Video Picks
By David A. Clarke Jr.
Blame Washington's intelligence failure, not lack of police
- CURL: We completely overhauled American health care to insure 4.2 million people?
- California gun store owner refuses to hand over customer list
- Bill Maher: God a 'psychotic mass murderer' who 'drowns babies'
- Firefighters discover church's Bible in Harlem rubble following gas explosion
- Crimea votes in favor of secession, U.S. rejects
- College group's diversity event canceled after excluding white people
- McCaul offers scenario where missing Malaysian jet lands in hostile country to be use as missile
- EXCLUSIVE: FBI blocked in corruption probe involving Sens. Reid, Lee
- Trust me: Obama promises new overtime rules will be 'easier for everyone'
- Officials in three states bank on states' rights argument to stop gay marriage spread
Chaos as Manhattan building explodes
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014