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Russia's Putin Announces $50 Billion In New Space Spending

Moscow will spend $52 billion on its space program through 2020, including money for completion of a new launch facility on Russian soil.

The announcement came from President Vladimir Putin as he spoke to orbiting astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Cosmonaut's Day, the 52nd anniversary of the first manned space flight by Russian spacefarer Yuri Gagarin.

The total investment breaks down to about $7 billion a year, less than half of what NASA's budget has been in recent years.

Speaking via video link from the partially completed Vostochny (Eastern) cosmodrome in Russia's far east, Putin told the ISS crew that Moscow hoped to make the first launches from the facility by 2015. Currently, all of Russia's manned flights are launched from the Baikanour cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

"It's going to be a great launchpad," he said. "It took a long time to choose, but now work is fully underway."

Putin said with the new cosmodrome, returning cosmonauts would most end gut-rattling hard landings in Kazakhstan and instead adopt the practice of ocean landings pioneered by the U.S. during the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions of the 1960s and '70s.

"Most probably, according to specialists, they will come down on the ocean. So our cosmonauts will splash down rather than touch down," Putin said.

Putin said Russia would spend 1.6 trillion rubles ($51.8 billion) on its space program from 2013-2020, what he called a growth far greater than any other space power. He complained that Russia had fallen behind on unmanned space activities because it had focused on manned flight "to the detriment" of everything else.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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