Russia Eyes Exploring Entire Solar System

Landing missions on celestial bodies in the Solar System will form the backbone of Russia's space research program in the coming decades, a prominent Russian expert said yesterday. "We've found our direction, our niche," Lev Zelyony, the director of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which specializes in unmanned scientific missions, said at a press conference in Moscow, RIA Novosti reports.

Russia plans to send five unmanned probes to the Moon between 2015 and 2022, the latest set to retrieve samples of lunar soil. The 2015 probe was supposed to be called Luna-Glob-1,but the name will be changed to Luna-25, indicating continuity with Soviet-era lunar missions, named Luna-1 through Luna-24, Zelyony said. He added that Russia's space science program, which was largely halted after the collapse of the Soviet Union, is gradually being developed on a smaller scale, Novosti reports.

In addition to the already-underway two joint Exo-Mars missions, to launch in 2016 and 2018, another joint Roscosmos-ESA project would be an unmanned probe to the Jupiter moon Ganymede, expected to launch in 2023, said Oleg Korablyov, who heads the planetary study department at the Institute of Space Research.

Longer-term prospects for the global space industry include a scientific research base on the Moon by the late 2030s to early 2040s, which would receive periodic visits from human crews for maintenance, Zelyony said. "After that, the next stop [for manned missions] will be Mars," Korablyov added, stressing that "manned flight, while not bringing any immediate economic benefits, is a development route that mankind cannot avoid taking."

The Russian vision is in stark contrast to the slashing of the Planetary Science Budget under Obama in the U.S., his “smokescreen” asteroid initiative, and his “been there, done that,” cynical and ridiculous statements about the lack of necessity to return to the moon.

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