Moscow:  Russia is losing its position as the leader of the space race and needs to invest more in the space industry, a new poll has said.

According to the poll by the Levada Center, 46 percent of the respondents said Russia needs to spend more effort on its space exploration programmes, compared to 36 percent who think the current level of support is enough.  Seven percent advocated a cut in spending. Students and workers were the most ardent advocates of increased funding for the space industry.

The idea was also at its most popular with backers of failed presidential candidates Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Mikhail Prokhorov. Only 36 percent of the respondents said Russia remains the leader of the space race, compared to 51 percent a year ago.

Other picks included the US, named by 29 percent of the respondents, China (11 percent) and the European Union (four percent).The federal space budget in Russia in 2012-2014 will stand at about 525 billion rubles (USD 17 billion).

The country runs an extensive space programme, but it suffered a number of failed launches in 2010-2011, which were blamed on lack of skilled staff in the industry after years of poor funding.

(Agencies)