Russia Will Finally Send Men to the Moon
Better late than never, we suppose. But more than half a century later?
It’s reported that Russia is planning to send a team of cosmonauts to the Moon by the year 2030, which would be more than 60 years after America’s Apollo 11 mission effectively signaled the end of the US-Soviet space race.
A strategy document leaked from the Russian space agency says a spacecraft will “conduct a demonstrative manned circumlunar test flight with the subsequent landing of cosmonauts on [the Moon’s] surface and their return to Earth” by 2030.
Moscow has periodically announced ambitious plans for space exploration in recent years, but this is the first time a firm deadline has been set for a manned lunar mission.
Russia won the first leg of the space race in 1961 when it launched the first man to orbit the Earth, but the U.S. caught up quickly. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Jr fulfilled John F. Kennedy’s promise to reach the Moon by the end of the decade, landing there on July 20, 1969, with Nasa’s Apollo 11.
The Soviet Union gave up on going to the moon and cancelled its lunar program, but Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin wants to revive it. Putin says he wants to restore Russia’s space program to its former glory, but many of Russia’s top space scientists don’t think it’s a good idea.
Yury Karash, of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, says a lunar mission would be purely symbolic and would do nothing to restore Russia’s space prestige. Karash says it would have the opposite effect.
He says “It is hard to find a better way to hurt Russian prestige and emphasise Russian technological backwardness than by sending cosmonauts to the Moon around 2030, 60 years after Apollo.”
Karash said resources would be better spent on a manned flight to Mars, which would stimulate science because of the demand for new technology to serve a 450-day round trip to the Red Planet.
Russia watchers say developing plans to send cosmonauts to the Moon could help revive Russia’s troubled space program. A series of satellites crashed last year, and in January a Mars probe fell out of orbit and back to Earth after a faulty launch two months earlier.
If the Russians do make it to the moon, maybe they can pick up some of the litter left behind by half a dozen American moon missions.