The sweeping American plans to explore the Moon and Mars are practically impossible to implement single-handed. This idea was expressed before journalists at a major international aerospace forum that met in Berlin by Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian federal space agency.
More than 30 years of Russian experience in developing and exploiting orbiting complexes and long-duration space flights makes such an approach well substantiated. Perminov emphasized, however, that Russia need not invest funds into a Martian project. "It is enough to contribute our scientific knowledge, because in many areas it is far superior to all foreign experience." True. Neither NASA nor anybody else today even try to challenge Russian achievements in space research. But it is far more profitable economically and politically to move beyond the framework of theoretical research alone and to develop a joint comprehensive Russian-American program for exploring deep space.
In particular, Russia's biggest space corporation Energiya could already now offer American partners a Soviet-era project of a Martian manned orbiting station MARPOST. "We could build MARPOST for flights to Mars, and the Americans having Apollo experience, a landing module for descending the crew and returning it to the station. The alternative - a resumed space race and bitter competition - is economically disadvantageous for both sides," believes Yury Karash, a member of the Russian Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics.
Russia is also designing its own multiple spacecraft which given normal financing can be built in five years. "The corporation," says Energiya deputy general designer Nikolai Zelenshchikov, "has devised a multiple vehicle for serving the International Space Station, and in the future it can be used for interplanetary travel." The craft has a weight of 12-14 tons, is known as Kliper, and is provided with a multiple capsule designed for a crew of six. "Our shuttle project is in the research and development stage and figures in the federal space program until 2005," Zelenshchikov said at the end of February. He did not rule out that the construction of the craft may be included in a new national space program drawn up until 2015.
In that way, real components now exist to form and implement an international program for further exploration of the Universe.