While the United States are experiencing one of the worst periods since the start of the Space Age, the Russian Federation is pressing ahead with ambitious plans that seek to put cosmonauts on the Moon by 2030. The long-term plan features other strong points as well.
Within the next 18 years, the Russian Federal Space Agency (RosCosmos) wants to send unmanned spacecraft to Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Getting to Martian orbit and studying the diminutive moon Phobos have been long-term objectives for the Russians, but they were never completed.
At the same time, RosCosmos is to accelerate work on the new Angara delivery system, which is now scheduled to replace the Soyuz and Proton as the workhorse rocket for the space agency by 2020.
The Angara rocket family has been under development for a long time, but funding woes have plagued the initiative, forcing it to slip significantly behind schedule. Now, the Kremlin appears to have taken a renewed interest in the project.
These plans were reviewed by the Russian newspaper Kommersant, in its March 13 issue. The documents describing the plans were classified, but someone apparently managed to obtain them.
Other space agencies were surprised to see the plans RosCosmos has. Everybody was inclined to think that the organization would scale back its ambitions following the loss of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft, earlier this year, and the rocket failures that occurred last year.
Apparently, Russia has no intention of doing so. It will continue to ferry astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), a project in which the country plays a critical role. The ISS program is currently scheduled to be discontinued in 2020.
Beyond that time, the country is considering building its own space station again, perhaps around another planet. At this time, these are only sketches, as nothing has been decided for certain.
In addition to all this, RosCosmos is also developing a six-seat spacecraft, to replace the venerable Soyuz capsules. The vehicle would be deployed by the Angara rocket, and would launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
The latter is a $20 billion installation currently being built in eastern Russia. Its purpose is to replace the aging Baikonur Cosmodrome, which is not located on Russian territory, but in the neighboring country of Kazakhstan, Space reports.
The extent to which Russia will be able to complete its plans remains to be seen. If successful, these plans would ensure the start of a new space race, of the type that led to the launch of the first artificial satellite around Earth, and the Moon landings.