When will they learn?

In the halls of space vehicle fame Russia’s Rocket and Space Corporation Energia has a special place for its role in that country’s manned spaceflight programmes but perhaps now its time for the company to keep quiet. A reputation for technical excellence is being undermined by ridiculous statements.Earlier this month Energia’s chief executive Nikolai Sevastyanov laid out a plan for 25 years of manned spaceflight that included Mars missions. The company has in the past also made announcements on private Moon missions, apparently costing $100 million a trip. Then there is its proposal for Russia’s new reusable manned spacecraft. Energia’s proposal, Kliper, or Clipper if you will, is just as unrealistic as the 25 year plan. With no international partners for Russia’s new spacecraft project the increasingly oil rich country still can’t afford to develop somerthing that is crossed between Soyuz and NASA’s Space Shuttle. The eagerness with which the Russians pushed Kliper and talked about a 2011 introduction of service date smacked more of a need to have a Russian shuttle like craft flying when America had just retired its own. Having visited the Russian  space industry dotted in and around Moscow and met the workers and senior managers I can testify that where space is concerned, all old warriors are cold warriors. Hearing a senior Gargarin Astronaut Training Center (aka Star City) manager refer to the Soviet space programme in the present tenths speaks volumes. Sevastyanov, apparently a Putin man, should be focusing on making a profit in satellite subsystems, satellite manufacture, and the continued use of Soyuz and Progress vehicles. Kliper and private Moon missions should be dropped from the corporate vocabulary. In post-Soviet Russia the silence of the old ways may have been replaced by a readiness to comment but out landish claims will only diminish the standing of a great space faring country and its industries.

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