Russia's Space Science Head Outlines Ambitious Future Space Plans
August 3, 2014 • 10:18AM

Speaking in Moscow on Saturday at the 40th Science Assembly of the highly-respected international Committee on Space Research (COSPAR), Lev Zeleny, Director of Russia's Space Research Institute, presented a wide-ranging and ambitious plan for Russian space exploration and space science over the next two decades. The Space Research Institute is responsible for formulating and supervising Russia's space science and planetary missions.

"The Moon and Mars are our priority for 2016-2025," he said. Russia will resume exploration of the Moon in 2019 with the unmanned Luna-Glob orbital mission, Zeleny said. This will be followed by Luna-Resource satellite, with a lander.

For the more difficult exploration of Mars (after having suffered the failure of nearly all of its Mars missions), Russia is partnering with the European Space Agency for the challenging multi-spacecraft ExoMars missions. Russia will launch the first craft in 2016, but Europe has just postponed the more complex 2018 mission to 2020, which will also have participation from Russia. Referring to its own Phobos Grunt Mars mission, which failed on launch two years ago, Zeleny said Russia may repeat it—to land on the Martian satellite, collect soil, and return it to Earth—after thoroughly testing new technologies.

Russia is also significantly upgrading its activity in space science. Roscosmos, he said, is planning to join Europe and Japan in the Bepi-Colombo mission to Mercury, will orbit the Spektre-RG science satellite in 2017, and launch an ultraviolet observatory in 2020. Substantial increases in Russia's budget reflect the priority space exploration is being given for the future.

'Geopolitical' Sanctions Against Russia Disrupt International Scientific Cooperation

Outright sanctions against Russia and bureaucratic stalling from the Obama Administration are disrupting international scientific collaboration, Science magazine reports. Most notable is the sabotage by the U.S. Department of Energy, in preventing American scientists from participating in meetings scheduled to take in St. Petersburg, over the next two months. Rita Guenther, at the National Academies, described the process of approving travel to Russia for scientists, as shrouded in secrecy.

One of the meetings in limbo is an IAEA conference on fusion, set for October. "There has been some diplomatic pushing and shoving behind the scenes," said Dale Meade, emeritus fusion scientist from Princeton. Scientists requesting permission to travel have not received any guidance. "This is the biggest fusion meeting of the year," Meade said. The irony, he pointed out, is that the largest international fusion project in the world, ITER, was initially a Soviet/U.S. initiative, to ease tensions during the Cold War. "This is now being replayed in reverse," he remarked. In fact, as earlier reported, an ITER Council meeting that was take place in Russia will now take place at the ITER site in France, so the American scientists can attend.

Other meetings that have been disrupted, and will, in fact, lose prominent American speakers, include a meeting on subatomic particles in September, and a conference in September on extremophiles (life in extreme environments). Granting permission to attend the conferenced, the Department says, is being done on a case-by-case basis.