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Indonesia In Talks With Russia To Launch First Astronaut

Indonesia from space. Image courtesy of NASA.

Indonesia is understood to be in talks with Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, about the possibility of Russia training and launching the Southeast Asian country’s first astronaut.

This makes Indonesia the latest country to be in talks with Russia about its human spaceflight ambitions, with Turkey, Hungary, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain already involved in discussions with Roscosmos. Egypt and Iran are believed to be seeking talks with Roscosmos to send their own astronauts into orbit.

The United Arab Emirates have already availed themselves of Russian assistance in sending their first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansoori, to the International Space Station (ISS) in September 2019.

“We have started negotiations with countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Hungary as they want to launch their own cosmonaut. They want to cooperate with Roscosmos”, said Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, in an interview with the Rossiya 24 television station in the last days of December 2019.

Russia’s push to offer astronaut training and launches to key countries around the world has gathered significant momentum over the past few months, especially after the successfully completed mission of the UAE’s Hazza Al Mansoori. This has triggered something of a rush among Middle Eastern nations in particular to get their own citizens to space via Russian help.

Russia also seems to be offering human spaceflight as a bargaining chip in large arms sales with countries like Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia, and possibly even Egypt. Other countries, such as the UAE, have to pay their own way for Russian human spaceflight assistance, but there is also the added benefit of reforging good relations with Moscow and client states, especially at a time of perceived diminished American influence.

Prestige is still a powerful draw for a number of countries as human spaceflight is seen as a multiplier of national and diplomatic power and influence, even if its benefits are hard to sustain over time.

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