[00:00.00]Russia’s space program faces hard questions as it marks the 60th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite.
[00:12.81]Some experts are wondering how Russia’s aging rocket designs will compete with new, less costly rockets.
[00:23.79]Sixty years ago, the area known as the Soviet Union was in a fierce competition with the United States to reach beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
[00:36.73]Tensions between the world’s biggest nuclear powers, the United States and the U.S.S.R., were high.
[00:46.82]The Cold War between the two competing sides, which began after the end of World War II, was intensifying.
[00:57.55]Then, on October 4, 1957, news broke that the Soviets had placed the first artificial satellite into orbit.
[01:11.56]Called Sputnik, the satellite was a small sphere, 58 centimeters wide and about 84 kilograms in weight.
[01:24.33]It contained two radio transmitters that sent out a beep that could be received by radio operators on Earth.
[01:35.11]The satellite was tiny. Yet, it started the extremely costly competition known as the Space Race.
[01:46.25]The race would end with the Americans’ Apollo Moon landings in 1969.
[01:54.57]In October of 1957, however, many people in the West were shocked.
[02:02.45]The Soviets had put an object in Earth’s orbit, and they had done it before the West.
[02:10.63]Soviet media said it was because the socialist political system of the U.S.S.R. was better.
[02:19.63]In the U.S., lawmakers placed an urgent importance on science education in an effort to “catch up” with the Soviets.
[02:32.27]The project to launch the first satellite into space was a product of the Soviet’s development of their first long-distance missile, the R-7.
[02:45.77]It was designed as an intercontinental ballistic missile meant to strike the U.S. with a nuclear warhead.
[02:55.15]Sergei Korolyov led a team that was building the rocket.
[03:02.25]He had the idea to place a simple satellite on the rocket.
[03:08.33]The Soviets were already planning a satellite that would carry scientific instruments.
[03:17.09]But Korolyov pushed for a basic satellite design that could be put into space quickly -- before the U.S. could attempt a launch.
[03:29.62]The designers considered a cone shape for Sputnik, but Korolyov insisted on a sphere.
[03:39.72]He is quoted as saying, “The Earth is a sphere, and its first satellite also must have a spherical shape.”
[03:50.07]A main part of Russia’s Soyuz space capsules that are still in use today also is spherical.
[04:00.29]Although the Soviet Union came apart in 1991, the Russian Federation remains very important in the space industry.
[04:12.93]But, observers point out that the Soyuz rocket boosters Russia uses to carry people and supplies to the International Space Station are very old.
[04:26.34]The Soyuz rockets are modified versions of the S-7 that carried Sputnik into space.
[04:36.34]Another rocket used by Russia, the Proton, was designed in the 1960s.
[04:44.95]These rockets have earned a reputation for reliability over many years of service.
[04:52.96]But recent launch problems have raised questions about the quality of parts manufactured for the vehicles.
[05:03.94]Officials found problems with the Soyuz and Proton rockets in 2016 at a factory in the city of Voronezh in western Russia, where the engines for both rockets are built.
[05:21.09]Russia’s space agency sent 70 rocket engines back to the production lines to replace problem parts, the Associated News agency said.
[05:33.61]These issues led to a one-year suspension of Proton launches.
[05:41.18]That suspension caused Russia to fall behind both the U.S. and China for commercial satellite launches in 2016.
[05:53.76]Russia had led the world for more than 10 years before that.
[05:59.66]Russia’s space agency Roscosmos also decided on cost cutting measures.
[06:06.99]It cut Russian International Space Station crews.
[06:12.14]The AP reports that two cosmonauts instead of three are to be used.
[06:19.36]Cosmonaut is the Russian term for astronaut.
[06:25.14]Many people in Russia have criticized the cuts.
[06:31.15]However, Russia has spent huge amounts of money on a second space launch center in the far east of the country near Vostochny.
[06:43.81]The new spaceport is meant to offer an alternative to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where Russia launches almost all its rockets.
[06:57.04]Despite the money put into the new center, work in Vostochny has been slowed by workers’ protests over pay and the arrest of construction officials accused of corruption.
[07:12.63]And people with ties to the space program have criticized the spending on Vostochny at the expense of other priorities.
[07:24.22]For example, Maksim Surayev was a cosmonaut who is now a lawmaker.
[07:31.95]He criticized the low pay of workers at the cosmonaut training center near Moscow known as Star City.
[07:41.64]“It’s wrong when, instead of fulfilling their task to prepare for space flight, they have to find side jobs and a place to live,” Surayev told Parliament.
[07:55.71]In addition to budget and manufacturing problems, the Russian space program has seen some projects postponed.
[08:06.61]For instance, space agency officials had hoped to launch the Russian module for the I.S.S. in 2007.
[08:17.78]But the module has been delayed for many years.
[08:21.51]The launch is now planned for next year, but some reports say another delay is possible.
[08:31.43]Yet, Russia’s space presence with its 60-year history continues -- dating back to that first launch that shocked the West.
[08:43.05]On October 4 this year, AP said that Sergei Ryanzanskiy posted on Twitter a picture of himself holding a small model of the Sputnik satellite.
[08:58.08]Ryanzanskiy is currently a cosmonaut on the International Space Station.
[09:06.01]He was marking the 60th anniversary of the historic launch.
[09:12.10]Ryanzanskiy had a special reason to note the event.
[09:18.12]His grandfather was the chief designer of radio guidance systems for space vehicles during the Soviet era.
[09:28.00]And he was involved in the Sputnik launch.
[09:32.46]In August, Ryazanskiy helped release five very small satellites that were manufactured by a 3-D printer.
[09:44.05]One of the hand-held satellites honored Sputnik’s 60th anniversary.
[09:51.69]I’m Mario Ritter.