"The past should be remembered. You can, and should, be proud of it,” cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin told an interviewer last year. "But you cannot live on it.” Russia’s once-pioneering space industry should take note.

Sixty years ago this month, with a rallying cry of "Poekhali!” (roughly, "Let’s go!”) and a 108-minute flight, Yuri Gagarin became the first man in orbit, providing a grinning snap for the front pages and an unparalleled public relations win for the Soviet Union.

Space lore remains powerful, and Gagarin a national hero. A majority of Russians still believe their country is a leader at the final frontier. Naturally Moscow christened its first approved coronavirus vaccine after Sputnik, the satellite whose launch in 1957 terrified the Western world. And while President Vladimir Putin is not an interplanetary travel enthusiast, he is keenly aware of the military and geopolitical implications of a space program.