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Sat, Jan 17, 2004

Russia Eyes New Goals In Space

Mars: The View From Moscow

The Russians want in on President Bush's plan to go to the moon and Mars over the next 25 years. In fact, they might just go themselves.

"Even though our space engineers lacked money to build new hardware, they have done a lot of prospective design work," said Russian Space Agency spokesman Vyacheslav Mikhailichenko. "We have preserved and developed our scientific potential."

Russian aerospace firms hope they can bring that sort of forward thinking to the table as NASA figures out what sorts of vehicles it will need to get to the moon and stay there, much less the space vehicles it needs to allow humans to explore Mars.

The Russians, along with members of the European Union, say it'll be mighty tough for the US to establish a base on the moon and fly a manned mission to Mars without international cooperation.

"It will be most expedient to build a lunar settlement in close international cooperation, as it was done in the case with the International Space Station," said Roald Kremnev, First Deputy Director-General of the Lavochkin Science and Production Society, in an interview with the ITAR-Tass news agency.

And if the US decides it doesn't want help, the Russians might decide to go it alone or form their own Moon-Mars consortium with the EU.

"A federal space program, covering a period of up to 2015, is to be drawn up before the year is up. The above-said projects may be included in it,” Rosaviakosmos First Deputy Head Nikolai Moiseyev told Itar-Tass. Many initiatives are coming from scientists to launch Lunar and Martian expeditions, but it is yet unknown which of them will be included in the federal program."

Kremnev said the Russians were prepared to employ their powerful Energia booster (right, shown with Russian space shuttle)  in the program. With it, he said, there would be enough lifting power to get the right personnel and equipment to the moon.

Once there, Kremnev said, Russian technology might again prevail. "We are ready to make robots, capable of building temporary housing on the Moon," he said.

The Russians say they could put a human on Mars in ten years -- and do it cheaper than NASA.

"The first flight of earthmen to Mars is possible, from the technical point of view, already in 2014. Only about $15 billion will be needed to do it, though the Americans evaluate their own project at $150 billion, said Leonid Gorshkov, a designer at the Energia Corporation.

Already, the Russian Academy of Sciences has picked six volunteers who'll be locked in a self-sufficient environment for 500 days to test the feasibility of sending humans to Mars.



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