Attorney Joseph Gutheinz will be giving a speech before the International Air and Transportation Safety Bar in Washington, D.C. this year. The subject of the address will be on his investigations into the fire and collision of the Mir Russian space station. The space station operated in low Earth orbit from 1986 to 2001 and experienced several accidents that threatened the station’s safety.
Earlier in his career, Attorney Gutheinz was a Senior Special Agent with NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG), and he was investigating the double standard existing between how American astronauts were treated in Star City compared to how Russian cosmonauts were treated at Johnson Space Center. Later, he began investigating the corruption in the Russian space program.
On February 24, 1997, a fire broke out on the Mir, which endangered the lives of Astronaut Jerry Linenger in addition to several Russian cosmonauts. Instead of investigating the space program, Gutheinz began investigating the fire.
His investigation revealed a defect in the solid fuel oxygen system, a backup system that had to be used rather than the standard system. The error caused a stream of fire to reach more than 6 feet, which could easily have damaged the bulkheads. In an attempt to put out the fire, Linenger tried to grab the fire extinguisher but found it was bolted down.
Those in charge of the Russian Space Program tried to downplay the fire as no big deal and timed the fire at 90 seconds; in reality, the fire lasted at least 14 minutes and could have killed the entire crew. As the program depended on NASA finances, Russia was quick to downplay the mechanical failures.
Later, on June 25, 1997, a crewless resupply ship, Progress, crashed in the Spektr module of the Mir. Attorney Gutheinz then began investigating that disaster. Part of the reason for the crash was Russia’s decision to use a remote-control docking procedure designed to save money. It had been tested several times before and had been found to be unsafe every time. However, it was still used.
Attorney Gutheinz will be speaking of his experiences during the investigation. The speech will take place on Friday, May 18, 2018, at 2:30 p.m. For more information about the event, or to speak to one of our skilled Friendswood criminal defense lawyers about a case, give us a call.
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