President Putin Outlines Russian Space Plans, on Cosmonautics Day
April 13, 2013 • 10:43AM

Each year on April 12th, Russia celebrates the anniversary of man's first space flight, made by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. Celebrations also take place around the world, and are known as "Yuri's Night." It is also an occasion for the leadership of Russia to highlight space accomplishments, and outline plans for the future.

This year on Cosmonautics Day, President Vladimir Putin commented on the future of the Russian space program, from the construction site of the Vostochny space launch facility and science center in the Far East Amur Region. Vostochny is scheduled to carry out its first rocket launch in 2015. Three years later, it is to replace the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan as Russia's primary manned-launch center, as Russia works to up-grade its space industry and facilities.

President Putin reiterated the plan to spend about $50 billion over the next five years to re-launch Russian space science and planetary exploration, and modernize space manufacturing and research. "Developing our potential in space will be one of the priorities of state policy," Putin said. Speaking to the crew aboard the International Space Station, Putin said Vostochny will be open to use by other nations, and his focus on cooperation was echoed by station Commander, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who said exploration was "about the future of mankind."

President Putin said, according to Reuters, that Russia was "lagging behind the world in some areas." He stated specifically: "We've developed a noticeable gap from the leading space powers in the technologies of so-called deep space exploration." Recently, Russian space officials have emphasized Russia's renewed effort to return robotic explorers to the Moon, to be followed by a permanent human presence there. "The Moon is a great launch pad," remarked Roscosmos head, Vladimir Popovkin. "It's basically a big space object on which a whole load of things could be accommodated. Not using it would be sinful."

The Russian President also proposed naming the future town near the Russian Vostochny space port after the father of the Soviet space program, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Tsiolkovsky, who died in 1935, was a pioneer of astronautical theory and one of the founding fathers of rocketry. He published a theoretical paper on using rockets to explore space as far back as 1903.