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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered construction sped up on a multibillion-dollar Far East spaceport that he said would break reliance on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and launch future missions to the moon and Mars. Building a new launchpad on its own soil is central to Putin's effort to reform a once-pioneering space industry hobbled by years of budget cuts.
During his visit to Vostochny, near Russia's border with China, Putin said that construction was lagging behind by up to three months, and that the 6,000 workers at the site was half the number it should be. "In the future, the capacity of the cosmodrome will be expanded ... to be used to realize the program to explore the moon, Mars and other space objects," he said. Putin said Russia has already plowed 100 billion rubles ($2.7 billion) into construction of the new spaceport to replace the Baikonur site, which has been leased from Kazakhstan since the Soviet collapse in 1991. Another 50 billion rubles ($1.3 billion) is earmarked for Vostochny through 2015.