The Russian government has decided to delay from 2018 to 2020 the first manned launch from its new spaceport at Vostochny because an earlier launch would require them to use equipment they expect to retire anyway.
While the construction problems at Vostochny might be a factory in this decision, I also believe there is truth to the claim above. If they launch in 2018, they will probably have to use the Soyuz rocket to launch crews into space. By 2020 they plan to have Angara completely operational, and will be ready to retire Soyuz. Why build the infrastructure for Soyuz when you plan to retire it in only a couple of years anyway?
The delay however indicates a more fundamental problem with the Russian top-down authoritarian culture. It shouldn’t take them this long to get Angara operational. The rocket was conceived shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. They’ve had almost a quarter century to build it. Even though they’ve only just done the first two test flights, there is no justification for it to take another five years to get all the configurations of the rocket flying.
If they want to compete on the world market, they are going to have to work faster than this. A competitive private company, rather than delaying the launch, would have pushed Angara to be ready sooner so that the the launch could happen on time, with Angara. That the Russians seem unable to do this indicates that they will not be very competitive in the coming decades.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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