Home Musical score Here’s why the Russian space chief keeps asking Elon Musk to visit him

Here’s why the Russian space chief keeps asking Elon Musk to visit him


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Enlarge / Yulia Peresild to star in Russian space film The challenge.


The head of the Russian space program desperately wants Elon Musk to come visit him. On several occasions, Dmitri Rogozin Invited the founder of SpaceX coming to Kazakhstan for the October 5 launch of the Soyuz MS-19 spacecraft carrying three Russians to the International Space Station.

More recently, during a interview on CNNRogozin got a lot of publicity when he invited Musk to visit his home in Russia.

“We respect him as an organizer of the space industry and as an inventor, who is not afraid to take risks,” Rogozin said. Musk was welcomed “to be a guest of my family” and to discuss “exploring the universe, alien life and how we can use space to preserve life on Earth.” He added: “I’ve already put the kettle on.”

Musk, in response on Twitter, was without engagement. It’s a wild ride trying to predict Elon Musk’s actions, but given his understandable security concerns, it’s hard to see the billionaire visiting Rogozin in Russia or witnessing the launch in Kazakhstan.

We could even read a disturbing intention in Rogozin’s invitation. The “kettle” comment recalls the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who fled to the UK in 2000 after criticizing the coming to power of Vladimir Putin. Six years after leaving Russia, Litvinenko was poisoned while drinking polonium tea. He died three weeks later and Western intelligence services have finally concluded the poisoning was carried out by Russian agents acting with Putin’s approval.

So Musk probably won’t go to Russia. And he’s probably not going to drink tea with Dmitry Rogozin. But it’s still worth trying to understand Rogozin’s motives for reaching out to Musk in this way.

What Dmitry wants

Since taking over as head of Roscosmos in 2018, Rogozin has had a passive-aggressive relationship with Musk. Rogozin has responded to SpaceX’s success with bravado and bluster most of the time, saying the company’s engineers are too gentle, or their rockets and spaceships aren’t safe enough for Russian cosmonauts to ride on.

At the same time, Rogozin saw SpaceX largely destroying important sources of revenue for the Russian space industry. Most notably, Crew Dragon cut the roughly $ 400 million NASA pays Roscosmos each year for crew transport services to the International Space Station. Additionally, SpaceX lobbied for a Congressional mandate preventing the United Launch Alliance from purchasing RD-180 rocket engines from Russia. Finally, the low-cost Falcon 9 rocket has eroded the commercial launch activities of the Russian Proton rocket, formerly a workhorse but which is now launched about once a year.

Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin is pictured in October 2018, after the failed launch of a Soyuz-FG rocket.
Enlarge / Roscosmos leader Dmitry Rogozin is pictured in October 2018, after the failed launch of a Soyuz-FG rocket.

Alexei Filippov / TASS via Getty Images

So why play nice with Musk now? There are at least two good reasons.

First, if Rogozin asked Musk to visit him in Russia, he and the country’s space program could bask in his thoughtful glory. Musk has a deep appreciation for Soviet rockets – he recently spent an hour visit with Sergei Korolev’s grandson at SpaceX headquarters. Musk would undoubtedly say nice things about Russia’s space program on such a visit. Upon meeting Musk, Rogozin could project himself as an equal. It would be important propaganda for him and the declining Russian space program.

It’s probably just as important, if not more, for Rogozin to attract Musk to the next Soyuz launch. Indeed, Rogozin and Roscosmos have put a lot of money on this flight, which will be commanded by cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and will carry two other passengers: Yulia Peresild and director Klim Shipenko. The actress and director will spend approximately 10 days aboard the International Space Station shooting a film titled The challenge.

A space film

This film project drew criticism within the body of cosmonauts in Russia, as it prompted a rapid reshuffle in flight schedules, and the film’s budget came out of the budget of the space company. However, the film is a high priority for Rogozin, as he is desperate to have something to show in the 60th year after Yuri Gagarin’s historic first space flight in April 1961.

“The project is necessary to demonstrate Russian technologies and draw the attention of societies around the world to the jubilee of Yuri Gagarin’s flight,” veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikin said. said in an interview earlier this year with Novaya Gazeta. “So it must be done by April 12, 2022.”

For Rogozin, directing the first “feature film” in space would represent another “historic first” for Russia in space, alongside the lines of the flight of Gagarin, that of Valentina Tereshkova in 1963, and other exploits. Soviets in the 1960s. But that doesn’t satisfy some people, like Yurchikin, who see a country relying on decades-old technology for manned spaceflight and promises rather than real plans for the future.

“We need to systematically process our space research plans and the training of our crews without changing the script in the middle of the room,” Yurchikin said, clearly referring to Rogozin’s leadership. “If you promise and fail to keep your promises, have the courage to step aside for someone more worthy and do not be discouraged. Demonstrating your superiority requires real achievements and victories – accomplished in silence. Only then will we give our society the basis in the future to boldly proclaim to the world, Space is ours! “

Have Elon Musk at the launch of The challenge The film project would attract the pomp and attention that Rogozin so desperately seeks as he seeks to create a picture of the Russian space program that is Hollywood, rather than a Potemkin village.