Russian Space Agency to Scale Back Spending

Russia will revise its space program, the national space agency said Tuesday, after a newspaper reported that ambitious moon exploration plans and other projects may be facing massive funding cuts.

Several Russian government ministries were engaged in revising the space program up to 2025, Roscosmos, the federal space agency, said in a written statement to Reuters.

It did not give details. But the Roscosmos statement and a report in the Izvestia newspaper suggested Russia’s prestigious space program might also have fallen victim to government cutbacks brought on by hard times.

Buffeted by low oil prices, Western sanctions and a falling ruble, the Russian government is scaling back its spending plans for everything from the health sector to welfare.

Izvestia published details of what it said was a draft proposal sent by Roscosmos to the government that showed big spending cuts in the moon exploration program were being proposed.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced in April 2014 that Moscow planned to build a big base on the moon that he said would serve as a platform for scientific research.

Izvestia reported Roscosmos was proposing to cut the manned flights segment of lunar exploration by 88.5 billion rubles  ($1.22 billion), to 329.67 billion rubles, but said funding to build a spaceship to fly to the moon would not suffer seriously.

Roscosmos, in its statement, declined to comment on those figures, saying the revised program was still extensive.

“The revised project of the federal space program for 2016-25 envisages the study of the moon by automated orbiters, as well as by building up scientific and technical potential for further studies, including by manned missions,” it said.

It declined to say whether Russia’s plans for a moon base were still alive, but said the first manned flight around the moon would not take place before 2029.

President Vladimir Putin has spoken many times of rekindling Soviet-era space glory. The USSR launched the first artificial “sputnik” satellite in 1957, sent the first man into space in 1961 and conducted the first space walk in 1965.

But Cold War rival the United States made six manned landings on the moon between 1969 and 1972, while the Soviet-built N-1 heavy rocket, designed to take cosmonauts to the moon, failed to make a single successful flight.

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