October 29, 2009

Russia Plans For Nuclear Mars Spacecraft

The head of the Russian Federal Space Agency this week announced plans to develop a nuclear spacecraft that would carry man to Mars.

In a statement on the agency's Web site, cited by the Associated Press, Anatoly Perminov said the nuclear craft would pose technological challenges, but could one day be used in manned missions to the Red Planet as well as others.

After the initial model is developed near 2012, the actual ship would require an additional nine years and about $600 million to reach completion.

"The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs, including a manned mission to Mars, interplanetary travel, the creation and operation of planetary outposts," Perminov said.

According to the AP, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is in support of the ambitious project, and has urged the government to find money needed for its development.

The new model could become the face of Russian space exploration as it would replace the 40-year-old Soyuz booster rocket system currently being used in manned missions to the International Space Station.

NASA is expected to begin to rely more on Russia's space agency as it prepares to retire its space shuttle fleet.

Nuclear-powered spacecrafts have an advantage in deep space missions. They are twice as efficient as conventional rockets, Stanley Borowski, senior engineer at NASA, told the AP.


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