The path not taken.
- Oct 9, 2009
- Reaction score
Came across a couple of documents that mentioned this abortive late 1980s/early 1990s plan for the future of the Soviet (civil) space program out to the year 2005. Included preparatory work & supporting projects, such as Mars '94 and a sample return mission in 1998, for the Mars Expedition (planned for 2015-2017).
The Academy itself is not free from rivalries among its institutes. 1KI and Vernadsky appear
to be struggling over the control of Mars project funding, program definition, and relations
with the US. Within IKI, the headof the Department of Radioastrophysics is attempting
to move his group to the Lebedev Institute of Physics.
Within the space community generally, there has been an ongoing debate over the
comparative virtues of manned and unmanned space exploration.
Much of this described interplay concerns the control of funding and resources. Recent
economic trends and policies appear to be intensifying such concerns and creating an
atmosphere of great budget anxiety. First of all, the Soviet Union's move to transform its
centrally planned economy into one governed by market forces has thrown the planning
process into disarray. For two years,the civil space program has been operating without an
approved official plan, although the "Program-2005" is currently under consideration. The
proposed program specifically emphasizes applied (and potentially profitable) projects such
as communications platforms, cartography, navigation, meteorology, natural resources
monitoring, and microgravity processing. Planetary exploration focuses on Mars, and
astrophysics and solar-terrestrial physics missions are slated as well.
The conversion of defense and space industry enterprises to consumer production has also
created economic uncertainty for the space program. The refitting of plants and retraining
of personnel are costly and often only partially effected. At the same time, the policy of
self-financing may encourage enterprises to deemphasize basic research in favor of short term
profits. Thus, the USSR risks losing its competitive edge in this high-technology sector.