‘Russian space programme to focus on landing missions’

Moscow, April 9 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Landing missions to celestial bodies in the solar system will form the backbone of Russia’s space research programme in the coming decades, according to a Russian expert.

“We’ve found our direction, our niche,” Lev Zelyony, director of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told reporters here Monday.

The Soviet Union has a track record of successfully landing unmanned probes on celestial bodies, including two moon rovers as well as a number of probes to Venus, an achievement that has not been reproduced since by any other space agency to date.

However, Russia’s space programme was largely halted after the Soviet Union’s collapse, though it is gradually being redeveloped on a smaller scale, Zelyony said.

Russia plans to send a succession of five unmanned probes to the Moon between 2015 and 2022, the latest set to retrieve samples of lunar soil.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) would also jointly develop two unmanned Mars probes, said Rene Pischel, the head of ESA’s mission in Moscow.

The probes are set to launch in 2016 and 2018, and would study the planet’s atmosphere and map out traces of water, Pischel said at the press conference.

Another joint project would be an unmanned probe to Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, expected to launch in 2023, said Oleg Korablyov, who heads the planetary study department at the Institute of Space Research.

Longer-term prospects for the global space industry include a scientific research base on the Moon by the late 2030s or early 2040s, which would see periodic visits from human crews for maintenance, Zelyony said.

–IANS/RIA Novosti

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