[FPSPACE] Ryumin interview -- Russia's Space Program: A Dance Run by "Successful Managers" and Bankers

JAMES E OBERG jameseoberg at comcast.net
Mon Dec 3 14:00:11 EST 2018

Russia's Space Program: A Dance Run by "Successful Managers" and Bankers
Pravda interviews former Soyuz and Salyut cosmonaut Valeriy Ryumin, who also flew on Shuttle Discovery (STS-91) about the state of the Russian space program. That such a critical interview would be published in Pravda, usually fawning in its praise of the current regime, is interesting.
Translator: R. Mitchell, reprinted with permission
Russia's Space Program: A Dance Run by "Successful Managers" and Bankers
Why has our space program come to such a pathetic state in recent times? Because the leaders of our space projects including building rockets and spacecraft are not space specialists, but “successful managers” or journalists and bankers. They make announcements about exploring Mars, but we don’t have the means to fly even to the Moon. Cosmonaut, Engineer, and Rocket builder Valery Ryumin talks about this and much more on the Point of View program.
Q: What does the future of our space program look like? Is there a real program to fly, for instance, to the Moon?
A: On what money?
Q: We’ve all seen the major announcement by your leader (Rogozin) who said that in 2026 we will be flying to the Moon. Is he just blowing smoke?
A: That’s the real pity. In recent years the leaders are blowing more smoke than doing anything substantive. [Energia President General Nikolai] Sevastyanov was more or less a real leader, but he lasted only two years. Then [Roscosmos Director Anatoly Nikolaevich] Perminov came along, and his view of the present and future were completely different.
At least he knew something about our systems. He lasted 5-6 years, but also had to be removed. They opened a criminal investigation. The next to come in was [RKK Energia Director General Vladimir] Solntsev. More like he was led in – I don’t even know where they got him. From some bank. How can some banker run a rocket company?
Now Sergei Romanov has been named acting General Director and Chief Constructor at RKK Energia, but only temporarily for now. We ask, “How is it he’s just temporarily filling in? When will you present a financial plan to revitalize the company?”
As you can imagine, it’s just paper. Some oversight committee has to make the most important decisions. What kind of committee it is, where it came from, what authority it has, what its responsibilities are – no one knows, nothing is written down about it in any case.
Q: But you’re not the young guys over there. You and other experienced people were always deputies, leaders, strategy makers.
A: No one has been listening to us for a long time. When Rogozin appeared on our horizon I could meet with him only through mutual acquaintances. I got to see him and said, “Dmitriy Olegovich, you don’t understand what we’re doing here. Why don’t you let me put together a group of responsible people who have retired?”
Q: …But who know their business well?
A: Yes. “A council of elders. [Yuri Pavlovich] Semyonov, [Boris Ivanovich] Katorgin, [Dmitriy Alexandrovich] Shishkin, [Oleg Dimitrievich] Baklanov are all free. We are ready to help you.”
He listened and talked. “Of course, that’s good. Let’s do it – I’ll put it together right away.” Later he delegated the task to [Vladimir] Popovkin.
Popovkin got us together one time and listened… and that was all. Rogozin is the head of the space program, but he’s not a space specialist, but a journalist. He may be talented and a pretty good organizer, but in order to survive in this business you need to know the history and have real experience. It takes a lot of time.
Q: Besides history you need goals.
A: Goals – yes. It’s absolutely necessary to have real goals.
Q: So what goals can our space program have now? The Americans and the Europeans, judging by what they are doing and testing, will have a new generation spacecraft by 2022. What will we have?
A: Yes, they’re building a new ship. We have been promising Federation and we’ll build it, but it won’t be ready by 2021-22 – even though we’ve already been working on it for ten years.
Q: Even if we build Federation, it won’t be a quality ship, much less up to date technologically. What the Americans and Europeans are doing, in my view, is a fundamental qualitative breakthrough, which will allow flights to Low Earth Orbit and to the Moon, possibly to build a base there. They will have a ship and a system able to perform the primary and almost any current missions.
A: Even if we build Federation, we don’t have any way to launch it into space. There’s no booster for it, and no money to build it. There are only decisions that we need to build a ship and a new booster. But there’s nothing else besides words. We’ve been given a task but no means to fulfill it.
And even the Chief Constructor, who built boosters, [Igor Sergeevich] Radugin who was fired recently because he was pulling out all the plugs. When they started pestering him about what was wrong, he ended up resigning. From then to now there’s no new Chief Constructor, and until we have one, things will not move forward.
Q: It’s important that a leader would have appropriate authority, resources, and opportunities…
A: Of course! The Americans and we have the next big goal – Mars. Before Mars, the Moon. That’s why the Americans are actively heading for the Moon. We also talk about it, but how are we going to explore? No one knows. Because we don’t have ships, we don’t have boosters that can do it. We had Energia, a great booster, but it was buried. Can we make another like it? I don’t know.
Date: 30 November 2018
Publication: Pravda
Title: Russia Space: A Dance Run by “Successful Managers” and Bankers
Interviewer: Vladimir Gubaryov. Layout: Yuri Kontrat’yev.
Translator: R. Mitchell
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