Russian space programme officials are set to announce a partnership with NASA to build an international near-lunar station.
Igor Komarov, head of Russia’s Roscosmos State Corporation is expected to announce their involvement with the NASA-led initiative at the 68th International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. Construction on the near-lunar space station is expected to begin in the early 2020s.
Plans for the station have been slowly consolidated for some time with European, Canadian and Japanese space agencies committing support. In addition to becoming a primary destination for astronauts for at least a decade, the near-lunar station will pave the way for NASA’s 2030s Mars missions.
Russia’s involvement with the near-lunar station has taken a back seat until only very recently. If reports are to be believed, the move is in response to a TsNIIMash research institute (Russia’s space strategy research agency) report proposing the station be used as a staging point for lunar missions.
The report is said to detail that, Russia’s lofty goals of creating a long-term base on the moon and constructing their own Earth-orbiting station would well exceed Roscosmos’ budget. The proposed solution was a partnership with the NASA-led near-lunar station with the provision that it not only be used for staging Mars missions but also expeditions to the moon’s surface.
The Russian space agency and its partners are likely to supply hardware and full modules to the near-lunar station. RKK Energia is also likely to add substantial expertise on lunar landers and other Moon-based architecture. Additionally, the country’s space industry could also supply their operational Proton boosters and their super-heavy rockets currently under development.
In early September at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Putin expressed his support for American and Russian cooperation stating, “In particular, there is interest in joint (efforts) with the Americans in the exploration of Mars by 2030,”
The near-lunar base will mark humanities first push beyond Earth’s orbit since the end of NASA’s Apollo programme in 1972.
Image Credit: NASA