The president of RSC Energia, Nikolay Sevastiyanov, has spoken frankly about Russian ambitions on their unofficial version of the America’s Vision for Space Exploration.
The flamboyant – yet influential – president is under no illusions about the 2012-2014 timeline it would take for his company to support Russiaâ€™s first manned mission to the Moon, including the mining of isotope helium-3 by 2020.
As with the United States – the only problem isâ€¦.money.
As with the US, the total funding required to back ‘as-soon-as-possible’ exploration – and indeed exploitation – of the Moon and Mars is not guaranteed. However, the bill for Russian plan is estimated by Sevastiyanov to only being around the $2 billion mark – a figure that is far less than the tens of billions the US program requires for their ambitious elements outlined in the ESAS (Exploration Systems Architecture Study).
‘We could make a landing as early as 2012-2014 using the Soyuz-type technology,’ said Sevastiyanov, in a wide-ranging interview with Vedomosti magazine.
‘With a budget within $2 billion, we could land on the Moon in three missions.
‘The first would be just a lunar fly-around mission, the second would involve a circumlunar orbit injection with automatic landing of the lunar module, and the third would be the manned landing on the Moon.
‘As for the industrial transportation system to support regular missions to the Moon and lunar mining operations, we could develop it by as early as 2020.’
Sevastiyanov did add his own frustrations with the funding requirements, admitting the Russian Government still hasn’t given any indication that theyâ€™re are willing to outlay the $2 billion for his vision.
‘Today, the lunar mission could only be funded by the state, but no such task has been currently set.’
Sevastiyanov noted that mining on the Moon is essential for the future energy requirements of Earth. With natural resources continually being diminished, the Moon has an abundance of helium-3 (He3) – which could be used as fuel in a new breed of Nuclear power stations.
‘We must do this within the lifetime of our generation, first of all because of the limited nature of energy resources,’ he added. ‘One way or the other, but we will have to go beyond our planet in the search of new environmentally friendly power sources.
‘A good candidate is isotope helium-3 to be used for nuclear power. It is available on the Moon.
‘The earth’s reserves of helium-3 are so negligible that their industrial use is absolutely out of the question. According to some estimates, our natural satellite contains no less than 1 million tons of helium-3, which can fully meet the entire Earth’s power demand for a period of more than 1000 years.’
Looking ahead, Russia also holds ambitions of a manned mission to Mars – with the parallel wish to set up a base for extended stays and exploitation of the Red Planet. While the Moon missions require Russian government funding, Sevastiyanov knows the Mars plans require an international effort.
An expected alliance with an economically revitalised China could be the key for Russia – an alliance that is not only important to national goals, but for the planet as a whole.
‘A mission to Mars is to be an international project (likely with China),’ he noted. ‘Mars is a potential new habitat for humans.
‘The problem of closed space, which is what the Earth is for us now, will sooner or later lead to conflicts in the civilization’s development. The manned space flight is needed to solve this problem.’
The road map that these missions would lay down could then prove to be the foundations of future missions to the outer-reaches of the solar system, with Sevastiyanov noting for the first time ambitions to reach out towards planets that humans might not realise until 50 years time at the earliest.
‘Besides, a mission to Mars will allow to develop advanced technologies which will make it possible to fly long-distance missions to the depth of the solar system, to energy resources of Jupiter and Uranus.’