Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Russian Space objectives: Cosmic Vision and Connecting with China

Russia plans to carry out an unmanned lunar flight before 2050, head of the Russian Federal Space Agency Vladimir Popovkin said.

Speaking at a State Duma session, he emphasized that further research will be primarily aimed at exploring planets of the Solar System, particularly Mars and the Moon.

Present-day cosmonautics is on the threshold of a new stage in its development - the exploration of the most remote edges of the universe. A landmark move along this track will be made as early as in autumn this year, says Vladimir Popovkin:

"November will see the launch of the Phobos-Grunt interplanetary automatic research station aimed at delivering samples of the Martian natural satellite's soil to Earth. Yes, we will send a 700-ton spaceship for just 50 grams of soil. Do you realize how difficult it will be to send a human to Mars?"

Over the 11 months of its operation, the spacecraft will reach the Martian orbit alongside a Chinese scientific micro-satellite, undock from the interplanetary station and engage in studying the Red Planet's magnetic field. The next few months will witness a distanced examination of Mars and procedures to choose a landing site for Phobos.

The latter will actually have a number of passengers on board - a collection of microorganisms and insect larva that will come back to Earth to help scientists find out more about the Solar System's ongoing processes. For the time being, Roscosmos is engaged in building the most capacious and comfortable manned spacecraft to replace Soyuz ships, Vladimir Popovkin goes on to say:

"This six-seat vehicle is being constructed under the principle of "open architecture", depending on whether we chose in favor of a lunar flight or a strategic route to Mars. However, the Russian space exploration's strategic development line throughout 2050 is more directed towards the Moon, whereas manned flights to Mars and asteroids are not a short-term perspective," explains Vladimir Popovkin.

In the nearest future, there will be three priority directions in Russia's space policy - remote sensing, navigation and communication satellites. In this respect, the Roscosmos chief said that the deployment of Russia's orbital GLONASS group is over. It will grow from 24 to 30 elements by 2015 to more accurately locate objects on the surface of the Earth:

"At present, the Russian GLONASS system has assumed a global scale indeed. One can work out his whereabouts at any time and in any place of the world. By 2015, we plan to upgrade our navigation system's precision up to 1 meter against the current 5," Mr. Popovkin says in conclusion.

Another challenge facing the Russian federal space agency is the exploration of remote galaxies. In 2013, it will send the Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma (Spectrum-RG) astrophysical mission created jointly with German specialists to make an X-ray map of the Universe.

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