The Russian Centre of Science and Culture
New Delhi, April 12, 2011
Today we are celebrating the anniversary of the event that marked the new era in mankind’s history. Fifty years ago the entire world learned the name of the first man who flew into outer space. It was our compatriot – Soviet pilot Yuri Gagarin.
His outstanding feat that reaffirmed the USSR supremacy in space exploration – starting from the launch of the first satellite in October 1957 to constructing orbital stations – was not only our national triumph. Yuri Gagarin became the embodiment of the daring dream, long-cherished by hundreds of generations of earthmen, including Russians and Indians, who described journeys to the stars in their ancient sagas. The great enthusiasm was reflected in a “chain reaction” in every continent where thousands of parents began naming their children Yuri and Gagarin. Hundreds of such “Gagarins” live in India – the country which has been our staunch ally for more than six decades. We are now engaged in a special privileged strategic partnership.
In April 1961 India’s Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, with reference to Gagarin’s flight observed that “the successful launch by the USSR of a manned spacecraft and its return to the Earth is an outstanding achievement of science and first of all the Soviet scientists. It is a genuine triumph of mankind”.
As a pioneer of cosmos, Gagarin opened up exciting prospects for space exploration. His flight also gave a boost to our fruitful cooperation with India in this area which started in the early sixties when my country actively helped in setting up India’s first rocket launching centre – the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS). Both countries conducted joint meteorological studies using more than 1000 meteorockets supplied by the USSR and launched from Thumba. As a result, India managed to create its own space agency ISRO and made its first steps towards becoming a space power. The first Indian satellite “Aryabhata”, named after the ancient Indian astronomer and mathematician, was launched by the Soviet Union on April 19, 1975 from the Kapustin Yar cosmodrome using a Cosmos-3M launcher. March 1984 witnessed the flight of the first Indian spaceman Rakesh Sharma who participated in a joint space mission as a member of the crew. He spent eight days in space aboard the Salyut 7 station. Probably, there are people in the audience who would recall how during a space communication session in an answer to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s question “How does our country look like from space?”, Rakesh immediately quoted the famous song – “Saare jahaan se acchaa!”.
Another major and successful bilateral project was the development and supply of cryogenic engines for the Geo-stationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) on a commercial basis. A historical milestone in Russian-Indian space efforts was achieved in 2001 when the Indian Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully demonstrated its potential in the flight using the Russia-developed Cryogenic Stage (CS). Since then India has reached new heights in space technologies and has become the seventh space power in the world with two kinds of launch vehicles – PSLV and GSLV. Now India is one of the few countries in the elite club of those capable of providing services of launching spacecraft. The successful lunar expedition “Chandrayaan-1” became another amazing “first” of the Indian space programme.
Space and missile industry remains a strategic priority of Russia. The efficiency of this sector directly affects economic progress and competitiveness, national security and the prospects of Russian science. Is not it symbolic that fifty years after Gagarin’s flight the space rocket Soyuz, successor of the legendary “Vostok”, proved to be the safest way to deliver people to outer space and has actually remained the only one until the US builds a new spaceship by mid-10s. Under the contracts with the Roskosmos space agency, NASA is to pay a total of $1.2 billion for the US astronauts’ journeys aboard the Soyuz vehicle during 2012-2015.
Russia is determined to earn much more commercially in coming years. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called for increasing Russia’s current share of 40 p.c. in the number of world annual launches to as much as 50 p.c. in the near future. Addressing a meeting celebrating Gagarin’s trail-blazing flight, he unveiled an ambitious programme of stepped-up space efforts up to 2030. In 2013 Russia will launch its new rocket “Angara” in two modifications. By 2015 flight tests of the next-generation carrier Rus-M are to begin. A year later a new space centre “Vostochny” will become operational in the Russian Far East with a bulk of space launches shifted from Baikonur, now on rent from Kazakhstan. Russia is developing a futuristic nuclear propulsion system for interplanetary flights, a project where, to quote Vladimir Putin, “Russia’s supremacy is indisputable”. Roskosmos plans to start manned flights to the Moon by the end of the decade and build a lunar base by 2030. It will send Helium-3 to the Earth, a potential valuable source of energy, and serve as a staging post for a manned mission to Mars. The Moon and Mars missions are likely to be international projects.
Broader collaboration with India is high on the agenda of Russia’s space plans with the recent agreements on deeper cooperation and in adopting the “GLONASS” Russian satellite navigation system. The Indian-Russian Micro-satellite YouthSat will be launched as an auxiliary satellite along with Indian remote sensing satellite on April 20, 2011. The experts of our countries are collaborating in preparing an autonomous flight of Indian spacemen and in creating an Indian orbital spacecraft. In 2012 Russia will participate in India’s “Chandrayaan-2” mission to the Moon with its soft landing module and a lunar rover.
On this historic occasion – the 50th anniversary of Gagarin’s flight – I have no doubt whatsoever that Russian-Indian cooperation will further strengthen and blossom, extending from orbital and lunar flights to the mysterious far reaches of the Universe. With such strong and time-tested friendship between Russia and India, not even the sky or the near cosmos is the limit! We shall strive for the stars!