Mir Cosmonauts Blamed for Collision

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MOSCOW: Earth turned out to be no refuge for Vasily Tsibliyev and Alexander Lazutkin, who were formally fingered Tuesday by Russian officials as the cause of June's Mir docking disaster. The Russian Space Agency hasn't yet said why it's blaming them, but the word in Moscow is that the duo made a slight weight miscalculation, which caused the cargo craft to careen out of control and slam into Spektr's living room. Tsibliyev and Lazutkin protest that Mir's worn-out, jerry-rigged equipment is the real culprit in the crack-up. TIME science correspondent Jeff Kluger is compassionate: "This kind of maneuver used to be controlled automatically from the ground," he says. "But the Russians' financial troubles forced them to rig a new hands-on system requiring the cosmonauts to master new navigation techniques in mid-step. It's not an easy thing to do." Nevertheless, the RSA plans to pull some reparatory rubles from the spacemen's paychecks.

More information on the Spektr crash

TIME's most recent Mir article