Russia’s space agency and training center for cosmonauts is launching a campaign to choose a new team of cosmonauts to train for a special mission, most likely for the moon this decade, Pravda.ru reported
The selection is open to any Russian citizen with technical or medical training, Vladimir Popovkin, the head of Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos, told Echo of Moscow radio station, according to the website.
"We will have the preliminary selection at first. But I can say that the group will most likely be trained to fly to the moon," Popovkin said. "Nowadays, modern science is ready to use the moon. I think that man will be on the moon by 2020."
Following the failed launch of the Phobos Ground Martian rover in late 2011, Roscosmos officials announced the country’s space exploration program could focus solely on moon missions. By the mid-2020’s, manned missions to the moon are scheduled, according to the news website.
Russia’s space experts say missions to Earth’s satellite hold great potential, with polar areas of the moon possibly being used for building manned lunar bases, Pravda reported.
On Jan.19, Popovkin announced plans to establish lunar research bases with U.S. and European partners, according to RIA-Novosti new service.
A week after the announcement, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich aired plans to build a permanent outpost on the moon by 2020 if elected president.
Lev Zelyony, director of the Institute for Space Research for the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that it could also be possible to construct international observatories on those areas of the moon. There scientists could observe phenomena impossible to see from the Earth because of the atmosphere and radio interception, according to the website.
Zelyony believes such projects could be built between 2040 and 2050, the website reported.
However, plans for the Russian-Indian Luna Resource and Russia’s Luna Glob (Lunar Sphere) missions to the moon were delayed from their anticipated launch date in 2015 because of technical issues that arose from the failed Phobos mission, according to Pravda.