Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has announced that his nation will increase space spending to 2.1 trillion rubles (about $70 billion) for 2013-2020.
There is no need to panic about the Return of the Red Menace, however. Russian officials and politicians are fond of making promises about future space programs, which have rarely been realized in recent years. Statements about future plans are often made for PR purposes.
Even if Russian politicians follow through with their promises this time, it won’t exactly shift the balance of space power. NASA still spends more than all of the world’s civil government space agencies combined. If the United States cannot stay in the lead, then NASA (and its political masters) are doing something wrong.
Vladimir Aleksandrovich Popovkin, director general of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) says, “By 2015, we shall restore the capabilities we had back in the Soviet era.” The Soviet era ended in 1991. Restoring the Russian space program to where it was 21 years ago hardly seems likely an ambitious goal. Of course, US politicians still talk about quixotic plans to take NASA back to the 1960′s, with Apollo-era systems, architectures, and technologies.
Meanwhile, the US commercial space sector is on the verge of a breakthrough in routine, low-cost space transportation that will bring about the dawn of the true Space Age.