Russia's plan calls for a six-person Clipper spacecraft to be hauled to the ISS via the Parom tug. Credit: RSC Energia. Click to enlarge.

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Russian Rocket Builder Aims for Moon Base by 2015, Reports Say
By The Associated Press

posted: 26 January 2006
12:18 p.m. ET

MOSCOW (AP) - The head of a leading Russian space company said it was considering plans to set up a permanent moon base by 2015, a statement that appeared to be an effort to win government funds rather than a specific action plan, news reports said Thursday.

Nikolai Sevastyanov, the head of the state-controlled RKK Energiya company that built Soyuz and Progress spacecraft, said that mining helium-3, a potential rich source of energy, and harnessing it back to Earth would be a key priority in the moon exploration program, the and Web sites reported.

Sevastyanov said a Russian moon base could start tapping helium-3 in 2020. He and other Russian space officials have made similar projections in the past, but the government hasn't allocated any funds yet for moon exploration.

Sevastyanov's statement, made at a seminar on space research, appeared to be part of Energiya's publicity campaign aimed at attracting government funding for the development of a next-generation spacecraft.

Sevastyanov said the Klipper spacecraft being designed by Energiya could serve as a transport ship to deliver helium. The company has also proposed building the Parom (Ferry) space vehicle that could help assemble elements of moon missions on Earth's orbit.

In January 2004, U.S. President George W. Bush outlined a plan for NASA to send astronauts back to the moon by 2020 and then on to Mars and beyond.

Scientists believe the moon's rich resources of helium-3 could be used in futuristic fusion reactors on Earth that would generate electricity without producing nuclear waste. Such fusion technology could also power rockets for deep space travel in the future.

There is so little helium-3 on Earth that the technology hasn't been studied much. The moon appears to have it in abundance because it lacks the atmosphere and magnetic field that keep helium-3 from raining down on our planet from outer space.

Speaking at the same seminar in Moscow, Erik Galimov, the head of the Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry Institute, also said Thursday that helium-3 could emerge as a vital source of energy as Earth's resources were being quickly exhausted, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.


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