Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Space Race?

Cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya was the first woman to walk in space.

Bloviating politicians recently have claimed that the United States is losing its leadership in space to Russia, China and India.

China has flown only three crewed spaceflights, and never with more than two people. Their last mission, Shenzhou 7, was in September 2008 and lasted only three days. India has never flown humans and won't any time soon.

That leaves only Russia, and it was surprising to learn this week that a Russian space hero thinks her nation is losing its leadership.

Here's the English translation of an interview given on April 11 by Svetlana Savitskaya, a Soviet-era cosmonaut who became the first woman to walk in space.

To quote from the article:

... She can't see any promising projects or big reserves in Russia's space program. The worst thing this astonishingly dedicated woman is upset about is absense of a specific target put for the Russian space industry at present.

Sound familiar?

And here's her comment on the International Space Station:

We've been leaders in space from the first day. And we have been first many times. Later, when the Americans landed on the Moon, they've became leaders no less than ourselves. Today the International Space Station runs mostly on our units and systems, which presence we owe to the work done in Soviet time. The Americans couldn't make a station of their own: in 1992 they were going to launch the Freedom station, spent several billion dollars to assure on the ground that their life support system works, but something went wrong with it. And just then, we collapsed and presented them everything on the dish, asking for no payback. That included our research on long duration flight in zero-G. They are now stopping flying the Shuttle. If we like so, we can now tell we are the only leaders again, because only Russian ships can deliver crews to the ISS.

She suggests a Mars mission is possible by 2025, "working in cooperation with the Americans and the Europeans. But such tasks and targets are missing in our official Space Program."

In a Monday press conference, Savitskaya said the Russian space program has "nothing new to be proud of in the last 20 years" and lamented that "Russia has done virtually nothing to design a replacement to the 43-year old Soyuz spacecraft."

So when Space Coast representatives Sandy Adams and Bill Posey try to frighten you with the spectre of a new Red Menace, remember the sobering words of Svetlana Savitskaya.

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