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COMPETITION DELAYED PROGRESS, COSMONAUTS SAY

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Two Soviet cosmonauts, in Boston for the opening of a Soviet space exhibit, say man would be flying to Mars today if the United States and Soviet Union had not stalled progress with its secretive space race of the 1960s.

"If we could have gotten together earlier, we would already have built an international observatory on the moon and we would be flying to Mars right now," Aleksei Leonov, 56, the first man to walk in space, told The Boston Globe Thursday.Leonov and fellow cosmonaut Valentin Lebedev, who lived in space for 211 days aboard Salyut 7 in 1982, said that while the superpower competition initially spurred technical achievements, it eventually proved counterproductive.

Their comments came as the United States and the Soviet Union are considering a joint manned mission to Mars, a prospect both men enthusiastically support.

The pair also said the "lazy" Soviet media were as much to blame for the clandestine nature of the Soviet space program as was government policy.