Medvedev elevates Russia’s space program to “critical priority” as U.S. retires space shuttle

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By Tawanda Kanhema
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has signed an executive order making the country’s space programme a “high priority” and “critical” commitment for research and development just as the United States announced that it is retiring its space shuttles with the launch of Atlantis in Florida on July 8th.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Windhoek- PIC Tawanda Kanhema

A statement¬†published on the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos’ website a day after Atlantis’s final lifoff reported that Medvedev had elevated the development of advanced space transportation systems to the status of “high priority branches” of the country’s science and technology development.

“Space transport systems have been named as a high-priority branch,” reports Roscosmos, “Development of the new-generation space and rocket technologies is defined as a critical objective.”

The executive order included 27 other areas of technological research and development that Russia will be spending more money on, including advanced weapons systems, energy and nuclear power.

“The list of development priorities in science, technology and engineering… includes security and counter-terrorism; nanosystems; information and telecommunications systems; life sciences; advanced weapons, military and special technology; environmental management; transport and space systems; energy efficiency, energy saving, nuclear power,” reads a statement on the Russian president’s website.

As the United States retires the space shuttle and makes significant cuts to its space program, the world has started looking for a new system leader in space exploration, which apart from numerous outer space research breakthroughs, spurred a broad range of inventions that have since been integrated into civil engineering.

The moon remains one of the most awe-inspiring extra-terrestrial objects visible to the naked eye, after the sun and whatever else lies in our galactic district.

Russia is looking skyward, with an assumed monopoly to an open space freeway, and China’s ambitions have also been bolstered. Russia already has the technology, but the funding for Roscosmos, its space exploration agency, has been nearly five times less than NASA.

For now, NASA astronauts will hitch rides on Russia’s Soyuz, but it remains to be seen whether Russia will increase its investment to space exploration in line with Medvedev’s measures.

While NASA’s budget for 2012 is expected to be at least $18,7 billion, the Russian Federal Space Agency’s budget is currently pegged $3,8 billion for 2011, and unless Russia significantly raises its monetary commitment, its unlikely to take an independent path in space exploration and might still rely heavily on U.S. cooperation.

As Russians find new pride in their leadership of global space exploration, the retirement of the space shuttle comes as a major blow to what has been single most venerated symbol of national pride for many Americans.

*The moon was photographed separately and brought to scale in all three images.