February 5, 2012
Russia Looking For New Cosmonauts For Potential Moon Trip
Roscosmos and the Cosmonauts Training Center are launching a campaign to select a new line of cosmonauts, training them for possible flights to the Moon within ten years, Pravda.ru news agency reports.
Vladimir Popovkin, head of Roscosmos, told radio network Echo of Moscow that any Russian citizen with technical or medical training is open to apply for the upcoming selection.
“We will have the preliminary selection at first. But I can say that the group will most likely be trained to fly to the Moon,” he said. “Nowadays, modern science is ready to use the moon. I think that man will be on the moon by 2020.”
Earlier in 2011, the former head of the agency, Anatoly Perminov, said manned flights to the moon could take place by the mid 2020s. But following the failed attempts of the Phobos Grunt project in late 2011, officials with Roscosmos said the country could focus entirely on Moon missions, with manned missions coming by 2020.
“We will think again what kind of forces we have and how balanced they are. Maybe there´s a point to make decisive steps towards the exploration of the Moon. As for Mars, we will cooperate with our partners,” Vitaly Davydov, Deputy Head of Roscosmos said.
The Moon still holds high prospects for exploration. For example, the polar regions of the Moon, where scientists discovered ice, could be used for “building a lunar base, where optical and radio telescopes can be installed,” Academician Lev Zelyony, the director of the Institute for Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences told Interfax.
It could also be possible to build international observatories near those areas on the Moon, giving scientists an opportunity to observe a whole new class of radioastronomical phenomena, Zelyony said. It is impossible to conduct such observations on the Earth because of the atmosphere and radio interception.
Zelyony believes such buildings and observatories could be built on the Moon by 2050.
Popovkin announced on January 19 plans to establish lunar research bases with US and European partners, according to RIA-Novosti news agency. A week later, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich said he plans to build a permanent base on the Moon by 2020 if elected president.
Russia will first launch lunar rovers and spacecraft that would fly to eh Moon and back, aiding scientists in picking the most suitable location for construction.
However, any future prospects are overshadowed by Russia´s current technical issues with its space vehicles.
Launches of two of Russia´s crafts, “Luna Resource” and “Luna Glob,” scheduled for launch in 2015, could be delayed because “the technical solutions used in the Phobos-Grunt project need to be revised,” said Zelyony. “Those solutions were used for the lunar projects too. It does not touch upon the equipment - it goes about spacecraft and control systems.” He added that the issues could delay the launches by a year.
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