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Russia plans manned moon shot by 2030

Space exploration on the cheap

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The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has submitted to its government a draft set of ambitious plans for its activities through 2030, including sending a manned craft around the moon, building ion-powered space tugs, and trying again to visit Mars.

As was true with their failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe, Roscosmos plans to accomplish all this on the relative cheap, according to a article in Russia Beyond the Headlines (originally published in the Russian-language Moscow News).

According to those Russian sources, Roscosmos headman Vladimir Popovkin has said that his agency hopes to accomplish "all its goals" with an annual budget of between 150 and 200 billion rubles ($5.1bn to $6.8bn). While that may sound like a fair sum, NASA's recently trimmed 2013 budget – which eliminated a sizable bit of planetary exploration – is $17.7bn.

Roscosmos' cheeseparing approach hasn't worked out well recently. Phobos-Grunt, for example, was a 5bn-ruble program – that's a mere $171m in today's dollars. That Mars-moon probe, as Reg spacebois well remember, was launched successfuly, but never made it out of earth orbit, lost contact with ground control, was eventually spotted flying in reverse, and crashed into the Pacific some two months later.

The Russian sources also remind us of Roscosmos failed Coronas-Foton sun-studier, which went quiet only a year into its three-year mission, and the short life of the Tatiana-2.

We'll add to that list Roscosmos' Phobos 1 and 2, which made it to Mars, but soon crapped out, and Mars 96 – aka Mars 8 – which didn't even make it into orbit: it crashed into the ocean when its fourth stage failed shortly after liftoff.

To be fair, the Russian sources note that Roscosmos' launch record was rather more admirable before last year, having only three failures out of 86 launches in 2008 through 2010. But successful launches alone do not a successful space program make.

The news sources also added a another spin to Roscosmos' challenges, reporting that one Yury Karash of the Tsiolkovsky Space Academy said that it was entirely feasible for Roscosmos to develop a heavy-lift launcher "given no corruption-related losses and efficient management," and quoting one Russian politician as saying "The strategy can actually result in trillions of rubles of taxpayer funds vanishing into thin air and no new spacecraft being produced."

My, my, my ... The Reg is certainly glad that not one red cent is ever wasted in NASA contracts here in the US. ®

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