Elon Musk: Bad for the Russian Space Program

Space X’s recent success sending US astronauts into space on its Dragon 2 spacecraft will probably cost the Russian space agency, Roscomos, its $300 million contract with NASA, or about 15% of its budget. NASA spends about 10x as much as its Russian counterpart. From The Bell:

The U.S. spending on space dwarfs that of Russia. The entire budget (Rus) of Russia’s space program between 2016-2025 was about $21.2 billion, compared to the $22.6 billion NASA spent in 2020 alone. Similarly, it will cost (Rus) just over $800 million to build the first pilot prototype for Oryol, while NASA gave SpaceX $3.1 billion to develop the Dragon capsule. The salaries paid to the scientists working on Oryol and Angara are modest: they work (Rus) because of a passion for space, not because it is lucrative.

But Russia is by no means out of the game:

One might get the impression Russia’s space program is falling apart. But this is not entirely the case: in 2019, Russia completed almost 30 incident-free launches, including the Russian–German high-energy astrophysics space observatory SPEKTR-RG that has traveled further from the earth than any Russian or Soviet spacecraft. The trouble begins when it is time to invest in new projects. Minimal funding means it is unwise to expect any breakthroughs from Roscosmos in the near future.

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (and apparently a Forbes.ru contributor) published a lengthy column on Monday defending his agency’s relevance:

So who can turn the language of “stagnation” in Russian space? No, the domestic rocket and space industry has not conducted such a number of research and development efforts since the 70s of the last century. Over the next three years, a completely new generation of launch vehicles and space vehicles will appear that can “give battle” to competitors. We have a vision of ways for further development, priorities are set. But most importantly, based on the results of this work, we will have a new generation of designers and engineers with practical experience who can proudly say: “I did it!” For the self-affirmation of an updated industry and its intellectual class, this is very important.

State Sponsored Pseudoscience

Did you know that the United States is using genetically modified foods as a bio-weapon against Russia, and is also creating a new human subspecies for use as a slave caste? It’s true. At least according to certain Kremlin-friendly Russian scientists. Maria Antonova has an interesting piece in Foreign Policy about the cancerous symbiosis between the Russian government and supposed “scientists” passing off outright conspiracy theories as science. A (legit) geneticist is quoted saying that “Even educated people are starting to talk about reptilians that have taken over and are plotting in the world government.”

I have a soft spot for pseudoscience and conspiracy theories, but strictly as entertainment. But when it rises to this level of public legitimacy you have a problem. Just as the Internet and social media have made it easier for individuals to retreat into cognitive bubbles by hedonically curating our information and social inputs, I wonder if its possible for an entire nation to retreat into an epistemic cocoon. I guess we’ll find out.