In a press conference on Tuesday, Ostapenko underlined Russia’s commitment to space exploration in the coming decades: “We are planning to complete tests of a super-heavy carrier rocket and start full-scale Moon exploration at the end of the next decade. By that time, analysis of Moon surface data gathered by unmanned spacecraft will help to determine the best sites for lunar expeditions and Moon bases.”
A new frontier for Russia
Preparatory work on the new rocket has already been undertaken. Although the Russians were the first to send a probe to the dark side of the moon and collect soil samples, they have never succeeded in landing a manned vehicle. The new Russian Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 aims to change that.
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The variety of equipment slated for development shows how serious the Russians are about becoming permanent residents of the moon. Roscosmos is committed to the development of a moon base, a mobile manipulator crane, a grader, an excavator, a cable layer and a mobile robot for lunar surface exploration.
The mobile robot, which has been imaginatively named the Moon-Mobile, will be used to search for natural resources such as titanium and uranium. According to Ostapenko development will be concluded by 2021, and testing will take another four years.
Russia: From the Moon to Mars
Not content with making ambitious plans for lunar expeditions, the Russians are also planning a mission to the red planet. President Vladimir Putin has given preliminary approval to a 120-150 ton capacity super-heavy rocket, which is similar in design to a super-heavy rocket that NASA already has under development.
The budget for the new design is twice that of the existing Angara rocket, which makes it one of Roscosmos’ most costly ideas, and a risky one at that. Ostapenko, however, sounded bullish when he stated: “We have all the grounds to think that the plans we now have are quite implementable.”
Although we will have to wait a good few years to judge whether his optimism is justified, Roscosmos’ ambition cannot be doubted.