Will Russia Colonize The Moon?

Plan would put robotic explorers in the vanguard of a revitalized Russian push into the solar system.

Lunar Landers of the 1960s

This drawing shows the scale of the Soviet LK lunar landing craft next to the American LM (lunar module). The LK never made it to the Moon, as the Soyuz program missions that would have carried it were cancelled.

Russia should prioritize creating a moon base with full-time residents by mid-century, according to a plan created by Moscow State University, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and the firm Roscosmos.

According to the Russian newspaper Izvestia, the proposal argues that Russia needs to get a geopolitical leg up on rivals for potentially sizable lunar deposits of minerals such as aluminum, titanium, and iron. It envisions a public-private partnership covering the roughly $816 million cost of a three-stage colonization effort.

First, from 2016 to 2025, a series of robotic explorers would go to the moon to make new and detailed surveys of mineral and water resources.

Then, between 2028 and 2030, manned expeditions would orbit the moon without landing (it’s not explained why); and from 2030 to 2040, a series of manned missions would construct a permanent base for housing a “lunar astronomical observatory, as well as monitoring of the Earth.”

“The moon is the first step on the way to deep space,” Izvestia quotes Ivan Moiseyev, head of the Russia’s Institute of Space Policy, because staging missions from the moon will be easier (and cheaper) than lifting heavy interplanetary payloads out of the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere.

The Russian language article, “Russia will begin colonization of the Moon by 2030,” was summarized in English last week by The Moscow Times.