Russia Aims towards the Red Planet

Russia’s Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) has announced its intentions to build a low-orbit space station, which, according to the agency, will support future exploration of the moon and Mars. The project proposal is already on its way to be reviewed by the Russian government, along with a suggestion to extend the operational lifespan of the International Space Station (ISS) by five more years, setting its “retirement date” to 2020.
A new Russian space station? (Credit: NASA)
A new Russian space station? (Credit: NASA)

“We will soon propose to our government a project to construct a low-orbit complex, which could serve as a foundation for the implementation of the lunar program and later on – the Mars program,” Alexei Krasnov, director of manned flight programs at Roscosmos, said in a news conference which was held in Moscow on January 29th. “We are looking at the moon in a mid-term perspective, and would want not only to go there and come back, but to establish a lunar base, which would allow us to start exploring Mars in the future.”

The agency seeks both funding and legislative approval from the government, saying this program could greatly contribute to future development of Moon’s resources and serve as a stepping-stone for further space exploration, including possible missions to Mars. Details are yet scarce on the new space station, but scientists in Russia and worldwide have already set their eyes on Mars as the next milestone in space exploration.

With the construction of the ISS being behind schedule by at least five years, its pure operational period has shrunk to as little as five years. This is due to recent estimates, according to which the space station’s construction will be completed no earlier than 2010, while its retirement date remains scheduled at 2015. The possibility of such a scenario has led many scientists to propose “alternative uses” for the ISS – among these an idea sto convert the ISS into some kind of an interplanetary transport vehicle, which will serve as the “ultimate mother ship” in manned planetary missions to the moon or even Mars.

While the idea does seem a bit “sci-fi,” some experts say it is in fact based on some strong logic – the ISS, which spans over 15,000 cubic feet of habitable space, is already set with relatively vast working and living areas. Moreover, the craft, which can comfortably host at least five permanent crew members, can also repair itself using a robotic arm that can be controlled from the inside – all these do seem to make the space station a tested candidate for interplanetary travel.
Aiming for the red planet (Credit: NASA)
Aiming for the Red Planet (Credit: NASA)

Roscosmos is working hard to push the project forward in hopes it will bring the agency closer to realizing some of its most wished for ambitions, eventually allowing it to set up a base on the Moon and using it to launch the very first manned expedition to the Red Planet. The major challenge currently standing in the way of Roscosmos is getting the approval and continued funding from all other ISS member states. “We are considering the extension of ISS service life at least until 2020, but this decision must be adopted by the governments of all 15 countries participating in the project,” said Krasnov.

Apart from the eleven members of the European Space Agency (ESA), the ISS project also includes NASA, the Canadian Space Agency, and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Effective collaboration between the space agencies is crucial for the future of the project. “Everything depends on funding, the state of international partnerships, and perspective projects in the field” – said Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency.

TFOT has previously written a number of articles regarding the International Space Station – among these you can find our coverage following NASA’s recently announced plans to outsource upcoming re-supply missions to the International Space Station. You might also be interested in articles covering NASA’s most recent space missions, such as the STS-126.
More information on this project can be found at Roscosmos’ website.

Related Posts