Space the Final Frontier

Russia Dug Through the Sofa Cushions and Found $50B for a Space Program

In Houston, several rocket scientists just dashed to their cars to hunt for spare quarters in the ash tray.
Ground control to Major Vlad. (Photo: Time)

Ground control to Major Vlad. (Photo: Time)

Fun fact: The U.S.S.R. put the first man into space on this day in 1961. And Russia doesn’t want you to forget it, either. Today, president and part-time action hero Vladimir Putin unveiled a $50 billion initiative to get the nation back into space, starting the construction of a shiny new cosmodrome in the far east.

The AFP reports:

“Putin said in a live link-up with the multinational crew of the International Space Sation (ISS) that Russia hoped to have the first launches from Vostochny in 2015 and the first manned launches in 2018.

‘It’s going to be a great launch pad. It took a long time to choose but now work is fully underway,’ said Putin.”

According to the guy in charge of Russia’s space agency, they’re hoping to establish a moon base by 2030 as a jumping-off point for trips to Mars. (So go ahead and dust off that spec script about Reds on the Red Planet.)

This new facility and aggressive timeline isn’t simply about some boyish desire on the part of Putin to get to Mars. (That’s more Elon Musk’s thing.) No, Russia wants the ability to defend against space weapons. Bloomberg reports:

Russia will have the technical means by 2030 to counteract threats from space by other countries, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said at a government meeting near the country’s new cosmodrome in the Far East today. Until then, Russia will continue to expand its orbital capabilities to monitor potential threats and prevent rocket attacks, Rogozin said.

Let’s hope they earmarked a little cash for an asteroid-monitoring program, because the good old U.S. of A. doesn’t exactly have that on lock.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com