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RSC Spotlight
May 6, 2016

Space Exploration – Russian Style

by
Henry Jackson Society

Here a failure at the launch of a carrier rocket, there a satellite lost in orbit… What has happened to Russia’s space industry?

The chief spokesman on space is Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who has a degree in journalism from Moscow State University. It is uncertain how much he learned about space there but, judging by his announcements, he didn’t learn much about good journalism.

At one moment he is informing us that, ‘Space exploration is integral to Russia’s sense of identity: it is synonymous with the Russian world’, because ‘Russia cannot live without its space aspirations, outside its space aspirations. It cannot blunt its dreams of conquering the unknown, which beckons the Russian soul.’ Then he is announcing that for Russia colonizing the moon is a strategic objective (‘We are intending to arrive on the moon forever’), and that this is to be followed by ‘exploiting the resource potential’ of Mars. Admittedly, in December 2015 Rogozin suddenly changed his tune, presumably under the impact of the economic crisis, and stated that henceforth ‘the main focus is not on the moon or Mars, but on cheap space.’

Of interest here is not Rogozin’s linguistic aberrations, but the fact that they accurately reflect semantic aberrations, and primarily the absence of any coherent government strategy in respect of Russia’s activities in space, or of any realistic approach to developing the country’s space industry. There is no answer to the far from trivial question of why Russia needs space exploration. Is it to contribute to resolving global issues affecting the future of the planet? Is it purely a military, strategic necessity? Is because there are hopes of some major technological breakthrough in the near future? Or purely to maintain national prestige?

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