Dec 27, 2013 12:51 PM EST
Russia's Plans To Restore Space Program Will Take Time
Russia's space program hasn't recovered since the collapse of the Soviet Union. No site better embodies its storied but stalled history than Baikonur, Kazakhstan, where Sputnik and the first man in space were both launched, Reuters reported.
New policies approved by President Valdimir Putin last month intend to one day restore Baikonur to its former glory, and form a larger plan to increase Russia's share of the space market, according to Reuters. Success, however, won't come fast or easy.
Though it's still the only route for manned flights to the International Space Station and it launches a third of all satellites into space in a given year, Baikon's facilities are outdated and its surrounding environment remains startling un-industrialized, mostly because nearly all of Russia's top engineers left during the site's decline, according to Reuters.
"The whole industry needs to be overhauled because the old doesn't work and the new hasn't been built," said Igor Marinin, editor of the spaceflight journal Novosti Kosmonavtiki.
"Visitors expect a city of steel and glass like in science fiction films, but for a long time no one even knew this place existed," said Evelina Shchur, director of the city's space museum.
Russia's questionable infrastructure has also led to a series of financially crippling and publicly embarassing errors, such as a $200 million rocket crash in July, according to Reuters.
Russia allocated $5 billion to the space industry in 2013, an increase from previous year's spending but still significantly less than NASA's budget. The money hasn't yet aligned with more efficient business practices. Orders are not always being fulfilled and satellites aren't always of the best quality, according to Reuters.
"The money is received but there is nothing to show for it," Marinin said.
Still the world leader in satellites, Russia's continued failure and the rise of commercial aeronautics firm, SpaceX, could one day threaten that title.
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