Elon Musk’s jealousy is growing in the country of Yuri Gagarin

Remember the past. You can be proud of that, “Cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin said in an interview last year.” But you can’t live on it. “Russia’s once-leading aerospace industry should be noted. Sixty years ago, this month,” Go! ” (Approximately, “Let’s go!”) And with a 108-minute flight, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in orbit, a laugh-out-loud snap for newspapers and win relations for the Soviet Union to unparalleled people.

Space lore is powerful and Gagarin is the national hero. Many Russians still believe that their country is the leader on the final frontier. Moscow named the first approved Kovid vaccine after Sputnik, a satellite launched in 1957. Although President Vladimir Putin is not an alien travel enthusiast, he is well aware of the military and geopolitical implications of the space program. But Russia is not the power it is. It was damaged by Western sanctions. Worse, the combination of bureaucracy, military privacy and a government-dominated economy has failed to promote private aerospace companies of the driving kind of innovation in the US. In the east, Beijing, which launched its first satellite in 1970, is boldly trying to launch orbit, land and rover on Mars on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of its Communist Party.

Russia is still heavyweight. Over the past decade, U.S. astronauts have relied on Russian Soyuz craft to fly to the International Space Station (ISS). But it’s over. The new generation of rockets and craft saw endless delays. There is very little creativity, high waste cost and some big flaws. The 2011 Phobos-whisper mission marks the return of Russia to interplanetary exploration. That same year, NASA launched its Mars Curiosity rover.

The owner of the state space agency Roscosmos has responded to private successes abroad by rejecting initiatives such as Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation. In 2014, the US tweeted that it needed a trampoline to bring its astronauts to the ISS. Washington imposed sanctions on Russian officials, including him (he was then deputy prime minister). Rogozin has since accused Musk of extorting prices.

Part of the money problem for Russia. Federal spending rose in rubles, but fell in dollar terms. Independent analyst Pavel Luzin put the cost of his space program, launch sites and GLONASS satellite navigation system at $ 2.4 billion by 2020, less than the half-dollar level in 2013. U.S. purchases of RD-180 rocket engines, a source of cash, have dried up.

The ISS also received crucial support from US payments for Soyuz travel, so it was a wake-up call when Musk’s venture SpaceX sent astronauts into orbit last year. “The trampoline worked,” Musk joked.

Roscosmos tried to make changes, but its central programs did not go as planned. The Vostochny launch site in the Far East is intended to gain Russia’s autonomy and reduce its dependence on Bikonur in Kazakhstan. But experts say the harsh Siberian terrain and sea conditions make emergency landings dangerous. It has drawn undue attention and Putin’s anger over allegations of delay, overspending and corruption.

The Angara family of rockets from Russia, which has been in operation for a quarter of a century, looks very expensive. The craft of new men was scattered. Without it, Russia would have trouble reaching the moon. Contrary to that track record, plans to launch a renewable cargo craft at cut-rate rates are unlikely.

Moscow has insisted on centralized control and secrecy, failing to realize the importance of a burgeoning trade sector that could nurture Russia’s own space. It trapped private companies that insiders described as a regulatory and bureaucratic no-man-land, something that only the authorities began to address. The makeshift venture capital efforts and the high-level effort to inject space startups into the Silicon Valley-style cluster have also had some successes and notable failures. As the future of US-Russian cooperation in space remains unclear, plans for a joint lunar research center have been pushed towards relations with China. But China has its own ambitions, as well as a drive for self-sufficiency.

In his account, Liftoff, in the early days of SpaceX, space journalist Eric Berger cited a scientist studying the company’s feverish efforts and its potential to attract bright young engineers: “In the long run, talent wins over experience and founding culture on heritage.” Without. Reforming the political and economic structures that have pushed Russia backwards is bad news for the country of Yuri Gagarin.

Clara Ferreira Marquez Bloomberg Opinion columnist who describes objects and environmental, social and governance issues.

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