Russia sets space goals for coming decade

Roscosmos, the Russian Space Agency,  recently made public their goals for the next decade or so.  The headliner is a $70 billion plan to develop a new rocket and capsule to replace the Soyuz for manned spaceflight.  First developed to compete with NASA's Apollo program in the 1960s, the Soyuz is, incredibly, still in service today.  More than that, since the retirement of the space shuttle program, the Soyuz capsule is the world's only active spacecraft for transporting humans.  NASA pays about $60 million a seat to use the system to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. 

The Soyuz spacecraft is our only link to the International Space Station. (Image source; PD-NASA)

The rocket and capsule (which both carry the Soyuz name) have a flawless safety record for manned flight, but a 2011 accident involving a supply-laden Soyuz has cast doubts about the safety of this aging design.  Russia hopes to have a new system ready by 2020.

Roscosmos seems to be taking a more traditional approach to designing Russia's next rocket.  Unlike NASA, which is encouraging private space companies to develop the next generation of technology, the Russians plan to design and build the system in-house.  The substantial budget allotted this program indicates the commitment of the Russian government to maintaining a leadership position in space.

The agency also revealed plans to return to the Moon with unmanned rovers to collect and study samples of the lunar sufrace.  I think that this is a great idea.  With the US committed to the exploration of Mars, it makes sense for other nations to diversify our exploration of the inner solar system.  Recently, questions have been raised about the validity of current lunar formation models, and surface observations could go a long way towards providing the necessary data needed to distinguish the models.

Source: Discovery News