Yesterday we heard that Russia's planning to put their first man on the moon by 2030, something a lot of people see as a real long shot given the state of their space program. Well, it turns out they don't just want a moonshot by 2030. They want much, much more.
Further exploration of the document that gave us the moon-shot news, which was leaked from Russian space agency Roskosmos, reveals that the moon mission is only the exclamation point on a blueprint for space exploration that's every bit as ambitious as our own. Among the other plans: probes sent to Venus and Jupiter, a new space station and even unmanned stations on Mars.
Plus, they're planning to do all of this with shiny new gear. By 2020 Roskosmos plans to replace the three-seat Soyuz spacecraft—which they've been using in various versions since 1966—with the new six-seat Angara craft. They'll launch those bad boys from a brand-new cosmodrome at Vostochny in the eastern part of the country, replacing the facility at Baikonur that they've been using since the days of Sputnik 1 in the '50s.
All this will serve as a foundation for expansive new space exploration plans that encompass Mars, Venus and Jupiter. But the moon still seems to be at the heart of what Roskosmos is after. They're still planning to put a man on the lunar surface by 2030, but now they also want to send robots first to collect samples. From there, they're planning more unmanned missions to the Red Planet and beyond, and if they make it that far a manned mission can't be far behind.
According to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, these plans haven't necessarily been greenlit yet, just submitted to the government for approval. But when it comes to getting backing for the massive scope of these plans, Roskosmos seems to have the support of Prime Minister and President-Elect Vladimir Putin, who has long been an advocate of his country's space program rising above its status as "international space ferryman."
"We need to increase our presence on the global space market," Putin said.
So, we were skeptical when it was just the moonshot we knew about, and now all this is piled on top of that. Can the Russians actually overcome their space agency struggles and make this happen?