Russian Space Agency and Nasa Talk Joint Mars Mission in Order to Get Bigger Budgets

If Space Programs Were Richly Funded for Decades

IEEE spectrum indicates that Russia has unveiled an ambitious three-decade plan for a manned space program this week at the International Aviation and Space Salon, MAKS-2009

The Russian Federal Space Agency’s hope is that its plan will become the basis for a broad international effort to send humans to Mars and build a permanent base on the surface of the moon.

In contrast to NASA efforts, which would use the moon as a stepping-stone on the way to Mars, the latest Russian space doctrine aims for Mars first. To reach a Mars landing, RKK Energia, Russia’s premier developer of manned spacecraft, displayed a multitude of planned space vehicles, including a transport ship, a nuclear-powered space tug, and a planetary lander system. Together they would make up what the agency is calling the Interplanetary Expeditionary Complex.

Officials at the Russian space agency, Roskosmos, made no secret that these grand ambitions were not achievable within the current budget and capabilities of the Russian space program alone. Instead, they hoped to jump-start the idea of broader international cooperation, which could spread the cost of the manned space program.

NASA’s top official in Russia proposed Tuesday that the U.S. and Russian space agencies join forces to send a manned mission to Mars, RIA-Novosti reported.

White House Says Stay Within Current Budget

The White House told the panel to aim to stay within current budget estimates.

“If you want to do something, you have to have the money to do it,” said panel member and former astronaut Sally Ride. “This budget is very, very, very hard to fit and still have an exploration program.”

The options that face the White House come down to variations and combinations of these themes: Pay more, do less or radically change American space policy. The most radical idea would be to hand much of NASA’s duties to private companies.

SpaceX Falcon 9 First Launch Planned by the End of 2009

SpaceX continues to plan to debut the new Falcon 9 rocket by the end of this year, but company engineers are still qualifying some parts of the vehicle for the rigors of launch.

“We’re not down to an exact date, but we are targeting the end of the year. And so far, so good,” said Tim Buzza, SpaceX’s vice president of launch operations.

Obama’s Space Commission members appear unanimous in advocating commercial transportation contracts, and in forsaking a return to the moon in favor of more ambitious, longer-term projects to explore the solar system.

Shifting to commercial-style NASA transportation contracts most likely would translate into many thousands of industry and NASA job losses. NASA came to its present dilemma partly because of an eroding budget picture, leaving it some $50 billion short of the projected cost of keeping the space station flying while also pursuing plans to return astronauts to the moon around 2020.