Russia's Deputy PM says country must shoot for Moon base

MOSCOW Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:45am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia should set itself the "super goal" of building a large base on the Moon it could use to achieve "leaps" in science and to give a new sense of purpose to its troubled space program, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday.

Calling the task "big, prestigious and political", Rogozin said the country's space industry - which has suffered a string of costly and embarrassing failures - urgently needed a tangible stimulus to force it to focus.

"There is a lot of competition among countries in the space sector and so we must have a big super goal that could pull forward science and industry; that would enable the country to escape from the morass of problems, which have kept us captive for the past 20 years," Rogozin told the Vesti FM radio station.

"Why not try to build a big station on the Moon that would be a base for future 'leaps' of science?".

Russia's renewed focus on the Moon may reflect a scaling back of ambition following a string of space failures and comes as other countries - notably China - are eyeing the Moon with greater ambition. Beijing plans to land its first probe there next year even though it still has a long way to go to catch up with space superpowers Russia and the United States.

Scientists have said the Moon may hold reserves of water and suggested various minerals could possibly be mined there.

The Soviet Union put the first satellite and the first man in space, but those glory days are a distant memory. Crimped budgets and a brain drain mean Moscow has long been absent from deep space and its space program appears to be in trouble.

Last year, a Russian mission failed to return samples from the Martian moon Phobos, and last month the failure of a Proton rocket caused the multi million-dollar loss of Indonesia's Telkom-3 and Russia's Express-MD2 satellites.

"We are losing our authority and billions of roubles," Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told officials at a government meeting last month.

Roskosmos, Russia's space agency, has previously floated the idea of a Moon base - possibly built in collaboration with the United States and Europe - and has also spoken of the option of constructing a space station that would orbit the Moon.

It is planning to send two unmanned missions to the Moon by 2020 and there have been reports that it is weighing a manned mission there too.

Russian scientists and cosmonauts have suggested lunar colonizers could take shelter in what they believe is a network of underground caves left by the Moon's volcanic past.

"It's too far and too expensive to Mars," space industry expert Igor Lissov told the state RIA news agency. "We must start with the moon. We must give ourselves realistic goals."

Rogozin said the Moon project could be a jumping-off point for future deep space projects.

Space agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday that Russia would recall the rocket type which caused the multi-million dollar loss of Indonesian and Russian telecom satellites last month.

Such failures for Russia, which conducts some 40 percent of global space launches, risk undermining its standing in the market, strengthening competitors such as Europe's Ariane rocket.

(Reporting By Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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Comments (5)
jhvance wrote:
Not a bad idea, but nationalist pride is just not a compelling basis on which to justify the effort by any country. Here’s a variant on the idea which to me is much more compelling, though:

Establish a moon base to construct a mass-driver launch facility to deliver mined lunar regolith material into stationary orbit at one of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points, where construction of solar furnaces can refine the material into high-strength metallic alloys cast into structural shapes and panel arrays for construction of solar power satellites. Assemble these satellites to collect solar energy in three geosynchronous orbital positions above Earth and transmit that power (using microwave-based maser transmission into unpopulated desert areas) to supply Asia/Oceania, Africa/Europe, and the Americas. Make the effort a multinational one to bootstrap the construction, launch and assembly efforts for the initial components of the base and industrial habitats needed to establish, operate and manage the mining and launching facilities, as well as those serving the orbiting refinery’s initial production capability. Once those are created, most of the ongoing requirements for Earth-based support from its deep gravity well are supplanted by capabilities from the Moon and Lagrange facilities themselves, particularly so if the lunar mining effort includes extraction of the water ice which American and Indian spacecraft have identified as existing in permanently-shadowed craters (thus providing potable water for people and growing foodstuffs, breathable oxygen, and fuel for the orbital transfers from the Lagrange refinery to assembly points in geosynchronous orbit).

In other words, make a global effort to shift power generation capability into space, and thereby create a new and widespread industrial revolution concurrently with a rapid transition away from CO2-producing forms of meeting global terrestrial baseload energy demands.

Sep 11, 2012 2:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
AZWarrior wrote:
Putin just wants a better penal colony than Siberia for Pussy Riot and other foes.

Sep 11, 2012 5:56pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
jrpardinas wrote:
I noble aspiration!

When the Russians finally build their lunar colony, I very much hope they’ll consider Newt Gingrich for mayor.

Sep 11, 2012 9:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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