The space race has long been a source of pride and competition between the United States and Russia, especially during Soviet times. The launch of the first satellite, the Soviet-built Sputnik, is still considered a major accomplishment of the USSR. Yuri Gagarin was the first cosmonaut in space to successfully return, and this shocking development pushed then President Kennedy to redouble America’s efforts to reach the Moon.
The weaponization of space is an area where some analysts believe Russia, and China, have a ten year lead over American military capability.
The recent launch of a Tesla automobile into space as a demonstration of the heavy-lift capability of the American firm SpaceX, resonated deeply with the Russian population. As the Russian space program has been beset by multiple failures, and loss of market share, Russian social media was abuzz after the Tesla launch with irony and nostalgia.
President Putin, sensing this sarcasm, released a video, only days before the 2018 Russian presidential election, in which he promised Russia would return to space greatness by beating Trump and Must to mars with a mission next year.
“Very soon, in 2019, we’re going to launch a mission toward Mars,” Putin said in a new documentary film that was posted on Russian social media Thursday. Speaking with his re-election campaign spokesman Andrei Kondrashov in the documentary, the president said Russia would also send a mission to the Moon. “Our experts will try to land on the poles because there is reason to believe there may be water […] Research of other planets and outer space could begin from there,” Putin said, reported The Moscow Times.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also recently signed executive orders to direct American space experts to develop travel to the Moon once again, and eventually Mars. SpaceX plans to also launch a mission to the Red Planet in 2019.