Putin swings axe on Roscosmos as Russia scales back space exploration

4 Jan 2016

Expedition 40 and Soyuz spacecraft taking off from the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome. Image via NASA/Joel Kowsky

Lost among the Christmas festivities was the news that Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, was as good as disbanded amid severe financial governmental cuts imposed by Vladimir Putin and the Russian government.

Russia’s geopolitical stance with regard to Syria, Ukraine and other issues during 2015 did little to bolster the country’s finances following trade sanctions imposed on it by the US and other nations, as well as the falling price in oil, which has seen its economy shrink by as much as 4pc.

And now, according to Reuters, the country’s plans to send cosmonauts to the moon and undergo other space endeavours will be put on the back burner, with Putin’s government completely restructuring the national space agency, Roscosmos.

Roscosmos – as it has been known for decades – has been disbanded as of 1 January but, confusingly, the name Roscosmos will remain in use  under an entirely new set of protocols orchestrated by the Federal Space Agency and the United Rocket and Space Corporation.

The space agency revealed its fate in a letter sent to Reuters, which didn’t reveal too many details. The disbanding makes sense, however, given that the agency announced it was to make cuts of as much as 35pc in its spending back in April of last year.

And yet it is somewhat of a surprise as, as recently as last month, Roscosmos announced that it still plans to establish a lunar base sometime in the 2030s.

The newly restructured agency has laid out its immediate aims, continuing much of what was previously planned, albeit over a longer timeline and less extensively.

“The revised project of the federal space programme 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,” the statement sent to Reuters read.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic