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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Official Pleads for Space Aid

His voice cracking and his eyes turning red and watery, a Russian space official appealed to the government for help Thursday.

"Russia should not allow the murdering of the aerospace industry, for which millions of people sacrificed their lives and which made such great leaps forward in the past 50 years", said Vadim Zlotnikov, deputy head of the Russian Space Agency planning department.

"It's just a shame to see it all go to ruin", Zlotnikov muttered, choking on his words.

His plea for help is part of a growing effort by space enterprises to lobby to regain some of the funding that was lavished upon them in the Soviet era. While Zlotnikov and others say they want to promote commercial projects and gain access to the world market, they say only the government can help them survive.

In 1992, close to 10 percent of the industry's top specialists left for better paying Jobs, Zlotnikov said at a press conference. The main reason, he said, was that monthly salaries of space industry employees had averaged 4, 374 rubles ($4. 27) in 1992, against an average of 7, 100 rubles for the average Russian worker. "If someone works in an aerospace factory and near him someone who sells goods in a kiosk earns 10 times more than a top specialist, then of course the specialist starts wondering: 'What does Russia need me for? '" Zlotnikov said.

The industry is faced with skyrocketing production costs because supply industries are moving to world prices, he said. In 1992 alone, he said, the cost of aluminum plates went up 333 times. In 1992 missile constructors could still rely on supplies, but those were running out, he said.

Zlotnikov said cosmodromes such as the Baikonur base in Kazakhstan were among the hardest hit. "If there is no investment of 9. 5 billion rubles into that cosmodrome this year, then in 1994 there will be no money for launches".

The little funding that is allotted is not transferred in time, Zlotnikov said. By July 1, only 23 percent of allotted funds for 1993 had actually been transferred to the space industries, he said, adding that some factories had not paid out salaries for several months.

Grigory Khozin, a professor at Moscow State University who specializes in the space industry, said students were leaving space research for more profitable careers in business.

While the space industry was once accused of hogging too much money, Zlotnikov said it only took up 0. 39 percent of the government budget in 1993, against 0. 95 percent in the United States.

While commercial projects, especially in satellites, could attract private money into the industry, Zlotnikov said the space agency could not rely on private business which would only invest in projects promising short-term profits that did little to boost research.

President Boris Yeltsin has been pressing the United States and the European Community for greater access to the world aerospace market, especially in satellite launches.