Science News

Russia slashes space funding by 30 percent as crisis weighs

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaks during an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 13, 2016. REUTERS/Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/Pool

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev agreed to slash funding for Russia’s space program by 30 percent on Thursday, an effort to reign in state spending in the face of a deepening economic crisis.

Approving a plan submitted by Russian space agency Roscosmos in January, Medvedev ordered Russia’s space program budget for 2016-2025 to be cut from 2 trillion rubles ($29.24 billion) to 1.4 trillion rubles.

“It is a large program, but we need such big programs, even in circumstances when all is not well with the economy,” TASS news agency quoted Medvedev as saying.

Space exploration is a subject of national pride in Russia, rooted in the Cold War “space race” with the United States, and has been touted by President Vladimir Putin as a symbol of his country’s resurgent global standing.

But along with other large-scale and costly projects, such as preparations for the 2018 soccer World Cup, state support for Roscosmos has fallen victim to Russia’s steep economic downturn, fueled by a collapse in global oil prices and Western sanctions.

In line with its reduced funding, the space agency has agreed to delay a manned flight to the moon by five years - to 2035 from 2030 - and scrap plans to develop a reusable rocket, a potentially valuable cost-saving technology.

A Roscosmos spokesman previously said the agency would reassess its plans after 2025.

Reporting by Jack Stubbs; Editing by