Roscosmos Chief Says Mars Mission Requires Technology Breakthroughs, Better Economy
October 10, 2011 • 9:22AM

Speaking at the conference of the International Astronautical Federation in Cape Town, South Africa, Vladimir Popovkin, the head of the Russian Roskosmos Space Agency, said that an inspection of rockets similar to the one that caused the crash of the Progress cargo ship recently had found no production faults. This opens the way for renewed launches to the station. Popovkin said a crowded launch schedule would bring the space station back to full operation by December 21. But he also expressed his dismay over the fact that, with the ending of the U.S. Shuttle program, Progress was the only means of supplying the space station.

"While other countries are working on new (spacecraft), we are forced to focus on the production of well-reputed but comparatively old space craft, Soyuz and Progress." Popovkin may have been referring to NASA's recent unveiling of plans to build a deep-space rocket, which plans, however, are largely a pie-in- the-sky venture under the present political and economic policies of the Obama Administration. Popovkin dismissed ambitions to fly cosmonauts to Mars at the present time. "The prospect of flights to asteroids and Mars is far off and their realization depends not only on the economic development of the country, but also on technological progress," he said. Russia, he said, would concentrate on the Moon.

Also citing the lack of financing, Popovkin said that Russia intended to halt the production of Rus-M carrier rockets, which were part of an ambitious plan to launch new-generation spacecraft from 2015 on at the newly planned Vostochny launchpad in the Far East. "We have come to the conclusion that we do not need a new rocket; we can continue using those we already have," Popovkin said.