The Kremlin may be strapped for cash, but the space program remains a priority. "It's the one place Russia still believes it's an equal player," says Meier. "And you have to admit, they achieved miracles in space -- a lot more than they ever did on the ground." Which, of course, is exactly where the crisis-ridden country needs a miracle right now.
MOSCOW: Russia's leaders ought to pray that things on Earth unfold as they do in space: Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov announced Friday that Russia had found the funds, via "certain extra-budgetary sources," to pay for its continued participation in the international space station project. (Russia has to cough up $240 million this year alone.) Translation: Nemtsov may be hinting at a cosmic bailout. "They’ve been talking to European countries about short-term financing in order to get the thing into space," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "Somebody will probably step into the breach with a bailout -- it's an interesting metaphor for the country’s entire crisis."