50 years on, space 'still priority' for Russia: Medvedev

12th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fifty years after Yuri Gagarin's historic flight, space travel is a priority for post-Soviet Russia and exploration of the cosmos remains in its infancy, President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday.

Medvedev told a glittering ceremony at the Kremlin attended by all of Russia's most celebrated cosmonauts that after the collapse of the USSR there had been doubts if space travel would remain a priority for Russia.

"But what followed in the history of modern Russia put these (doubts) to rest," Medvedev told the audience, which included Gagarin's widow Valentina making a rare public appearance.

Medvedev admitted that space travel was different from the visionary idealism of Gagarin's iconic first flight on April 12, 1961.

"Today we have no doubt that without space we have no future," he said.

"And even if our ideas have become more pragmatic, we did not change ideology. It is no accident the space industry is one of the priorities for the development of our country," he added.

He said he was sure future Russian leaders would act in the same way because "the future of human civilisation" was linked to space travel.

"This does not mean we have done everything and we are only at the very start of the path. This is the youth of space exploration, maybe even its childhood," he added.

The Russian space programme has endured a bumpy time in the last months, suffering the embarrassing loss of three navigation satellites in the ocean after a botched launch and mounting pressure for the space agency chief to quit.

But the United States will soon be dependent on Russia for launching its astronauts to space when the shuttle is taken out of service and Russia is planning to send probes to a Martian moon and the Moon in the next years.

© 2011 AFP

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