Directors of the Russian space enterprise Roskosmos were quite late with their answer to US President George W. Bush who ordered NASA specialists last year to shift their attention from near-Earth orbit works to ambitious plans connected with the exploration of the Moon and Mars. Deputy head of Roskosmos, Vitaly Davidov, stated at the 5th International Space Congress in Moscow that Russia would be able to implement its programs without the cooperation with other leading space powers.
According to the official, Russia plans to launch a new manned station into orbit after 2015. Unlike the International Space Station, the new station, Davidov said, will be oriented at space exploration in Russia's interests. The zone to observe Russia from space will be expanded considerably too (the ISS currently observes only ten percent of Russia’s territory).
The name of the new station has not been exposed yet. Many specialists recollected Russia’s last manned space complex, Mir, which was sacrificed for the sake of the ISS.
The statement about the long-term sovereign plans of the Russian space industry was made at the moment when NASA had to indefinitely delay the launch of Shuttle Atlantis. ISS partners had to adjust the schedule of their space flights. The US space industry has not been able to recover completely after the catastrophe with Shuttle Columbia. US shuttles were originally considered one of the main means of transport to deliver cargoes on board the ISS. Roskosmos and the European Space Agency are being quite concerned about this situation. The two companies confirmed their intention to cooperate closely within the framework of both the ISS and other space exploration projects.
A new European cargo spaceship ATV will fly to the station not later than 2007. Furthermore, the European Space Agency does not exclude a possibility to participate in the development of Russia’s new manned spaceships. The new ships are to be designed for the support of the ISS and for new Lunar and Martian missions. Vitaly Davidov stated that Russia’s strategic plans were not limited with near-Earth orbital activities only. Roskosmos still eyes the Moon and Mars as its top priorities in the field of space exploration. “Preparations to interplanetary missions are to be started after 2025,” the deputy head of the Russian space agency said.
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov