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UPDATED: 10:11, June 03, 2005
Russia to enhance cooperation with Kazakhstan on space science: Putin
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Russia will enhance mutually beneficial cooperation with Kazakhstan in the space industry, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Putin and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, marked the anniversary on Thursday of the Baikonur cosmodrome, once a crown jewel of the former Soviet Union's science and now a lifeline to the International Space Station.

After one-on-one talks on space cooperation with Nazarbayev, Putin said one of the most promising joint space programs between the two countries is the construction of the new joint Russian- Kazakh launch complex, Baiterek, and the more environment-friendly Angara vehicle.

Baikonur is still one of the leading cosmodromes in the world, and "makes a key contribution to the International Space Station," Putin said. Its smooth operation has been considered a most important fruit of Russian-Kazakh partnership, he added.

Close Russian-Kazakh cooperation has brought new life to Baikonur, which was faced with a life-or-death test after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union, said Putin, who called a deal last year on the effective use of the cosmodrome " significant."

Baikonur, initially designed as a testing ground for a secret Soviet ballistic missile program, was the scene of the historic launches of the first satellite to orbit and of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

Kazakhstan inherited the cosmodrome after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Russia now pays 115 million US dollars annually for the use of Baikonur under a deal effective through 2050.

In the past two years, Baikonur has been the only gateway to the International Space Station following the grounding of all US space shuttles. Statistics show that the cosmodrome launched more rockets than any other cosmodromes in the world last year.

Source: Xinhua

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