Russia’s space program facing existential crisis as Elon Musk helps the United States resume NASA’s ambitions

View shows a block of an apartment with a mural depicting Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin in Odintsovo-MAXIM SHEMETOV & # xa0; / REUTERS

The view shows a block of an apartment with a mural depicting Odintsovo’s Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin-MAXIM SHEMETOV / REUTERS

It took almost a year with four international crew members to find an air leak that everyone on the International Space Station couldn’t track with the equipment at hand that was driving astronauts crazy.

One night in October last year, Russian astronaut Ivan Vagner tried to find a small hole that sucked in precious air tearing a tea bag in one of the station’s segments, causing the tea leaves to fly to weightlessness. I was desperate. The next day, he saw tea leaves gathering around a small scratch that had been leaking air all the time.

Mr. Wagner’s ingenuity has won him praise for his hometown, but as the country approaches the 60th anniversary of its first manned space flight, the incident at the station’s 22-year-old core segment is of Russia’s dead space. I exposed my dreams. By the end of February, the Russian space agency had reported six scratches on the Zvezda module that were leaking air.

Yuri Gagarin took off for a virgin flight 60 years ago on Monday, April 12, 1961, with the victory of Soviet science in the competition with the United States. Russia’s groundbreaking space program is now facing an existential crisis due to mismanagement and lack of vision, as the United States and China are far behind Russia in the space race.

Yuri Gagarin & # xa0; in Vostok 1 command capsule 60 years ago; -HO / AFP via Getty Images

Yuriy Alexeivic Gagarin 60 Years Ago Vostok 1 Command Capsule-HO / AFP via Getty Images

The International Space Station, launched in 1998, is expected to function within 20 years and, unless extended, will be closed in 2024 under the current agreement, with other projects including a manned mission to the Moon by the United States.

“If Russia abolishes the ISS program in 2025 because there is no place for Russian astronauts to fly, Gagarin’s beginnings for Russia will end,” said Russia, leading the Moscow Institute for Space Policy. Ivan Moiseyev, who advised the government, said. , Told the telegraph.

High-ranking orbiting laboratory officials are seeking help to save the space program, which no longer has breakthrough results.

In November, Vladimir Solovyev, director of the state-owned RKK Energia, which oversees the Russian segment of the ISS, warned in 2025 of a “valanche of broken equipment” on board.

Veteran astronauts like Gennady Padalka speak frankly about the widening technological gap between the United States, China and Russia.

“We are still flying with the same thing that we inherited from the Soviet Union,” he lamented in an interview at the end of 2019, and his generation “is creating something new when it comes to manned spaceflight.” No, “he added.

The Soviet space program was a clear achievement of the communist regime and the ultimate proof of its dominance, but the Russian space industry has struggled to find its purpose since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“The Russian government under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin is busy taking advantage of the technical and industrial heritage of the Soviet Space Program, but now we are faced with the question” what’s next? ” “There is,” independent space expert Pavel Putin told the telegram. I will describe the space program as one of the last remaining “Russian insignia as a superpower”.

Space timeline

Space timeline

Designed in the 1960s, Russia’s clunky but incredibly reliable Soyuz spacecraft has been the only link to the International Space Station for nearly a decade since the United States canceled the shuttle program in 2011.

Russia has raised Americans into space by charging NASA about $ 80 million (£ 58 million) per seat.

Americans are reportedly plagued by high prices, and heightened tensions between Russia and the United States, likened to the Cold War era, have hampered further cooperation in space.

When using SpaceX from Elon Musk Blowed up for the first mission to the ISS After breaking Russia’s nine-year monopoly last November, many Russians recalled that they had missed the opportunity over the last decade.

Russian astronaut Maxim Slaev, who spent two six-month stints in orbit in 2010 and 2014, said Russia failed to modernize the industry while profiting from American astronauts. He was one of the people who criticized the space agency.

Russian Space Agency Roscosmos Sergei Rizkov, Sergeikd Svelchkov, NASA Astronaut Kathleen Rubins Astronaut & # xa0; -GCTC / Roscosmos / Reuters

Russian Astronaut Roscosmos Sergei Rizkov, Sergeikd Svelchkov, NASA Astronaut Kathleen Rubins Astronaut-GCTC / Roscosmos / Reuters

“Yuri Gagarin, I’m sorry, we messed it up,” he tweeted last October while posting a NASA video-a new one that should send Americans back to the moon in 2024. Launched a rocket booster. Reach for Russia’s space program.

In recent months, Roscosmos has flooded the media with new rocket project announcements, lunar base plans, and international cooperation.

However, the overwhelming majority of these projects have been completed so far, as some Soviet-era companies that once designed and manufactured rockets fell into difficult times and often lost their entire production facility due to real estate development. It’s just an unlikely blueprint.

Nauka, a new module on the International Space Station, will be available this summer, 14 years after its original date. Designed in 1992, the heavy Angara rocket was first test-launched in 2014, but has not replaced the Soviet-era Proton. Even when it’s fully functional, Angala is still a few steps behind SpaceX’s reusable rocket.

Poster of 1963 Russian astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova-SSPL / Getty Images

Poster of 1963 Russian astronaut Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova-SSPL / Getty Images

Moiseev of the Institute for Space Policy says Russia is pursuing projects like Angara as an inertial movement. “It’s already a huge amount of money spent, and it’s too late for authorities to say it’s unnecessary or outdated.”

Another controversial space investment is Vostochny, a Russian news lunch pad in the Far East. It has already been hit by a corruption scandal that has cost more than £ 2 billion and has led to several convictions.

Questions were raised about the location after Russia began construction of a launch pad that would replace the Gagarin-era facility in Kazakhstan. It means that the travel time from the other side of the country where the spacecraft is assembled is too long. On the other hand, being relatively close to the Pacific Ocean means that Russian landing vehicles need to be phased out.

Industry experts describe the 1990s as the golden age of cooperation between Russia and the United States in space, but the heightened conflict between Russia and the United States has undermined decades of collaboration.

Russia has been accused of doing little to modernize space technology (file photo) & # xa0;-& # xa0; SERGEI CHIRIKOV / EPA

Russia has been accused of doing little to modernize space technology (file photo)-SERGEI CHIRIKOV / EPA

Russia recently publicly refused to participate in the US-led lunar gateway gateway project and opted out of cooperation with China, but industry experts are skeptical of this idea and China has technology with other countries. He points out that he is reluctant to share.

After years of lack of funding, astronauts and space industry insiders talk about the lack of a long-term vision for space exploration.

Even now, a year after its planned release, Russia has not announced a long-term strategy for space research until 10 years from now, questioning the future of the industry, which is estimated to employ 250,000 people.

“Russia is now at a crossroads. We continue to fly towards the ISS, tearing chunks from the station to find out what God knows about it, or trying to work with the United States and Europe.” Luzin says. “In that case, we need to fix the relationship, but there is a problem if Vladimir Putin is in power.”-