Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, wants to send astronauts to the Moon as part of a modern lunar program. The move effectively includes Russia in the list of countries getting ready to join the new space race, along with the United States and China.
During a visit to Kosmos at the all-Russian Center of Achievements of the National Economy, cosmonauts asked Putin if a manned mission was being planned, and he gave a firm, unambiguous response:
"Yes, it is."
Russia Planning Manned Spaceflights To The Moon
"As you may know the program extends up to 2030," added Putin. "The finishing touches are being put to the spacecraft Federatsiya and research and development is on for building a super-heavy rocket to be used for the lunar program."
As Xinhua reports, Putin's statements come during Russia's Cosmonautics Day, a special date commemorates the first manned earth orbit.
Russia plans to develop a space station on the lunar orbit first before putting modules on the Moon itself, according to Putin, who stressed that he has no doubts that these plans will come to fruition. He also said testing for the super-heavy rocket will begin in 10 years. There will also be a special launch compound that'll be built in the Russian Far East, and it will be dedicated to facilitating rocket trials for the planned Moon missions.
Earlier reports confirmed that Russia plans to send space vehicles to the Moon first before diving into manned missions. It will rely on the Luna-25 lander, which, after a series of delays, is finally scheduled to launch next year. It is just one of the three spacecraft Moscow plans to shoot toward the Moon. Luna-25, which is set to land somewhere near the lunar south pole, will study the moon's chemical composition. The lander will probe the surface for regolith, dust, and then compile a 3D map of the landing site.
After that mission, Russia plans to launch the Luna-26 in 2021, followed by the Luna-27 in 2022.
The last time Russia launched a Luna spacecraft was in 1976, but a rekindled space race for the modern era, championed in large part by SpaceX's innovations in the rocket industry, have sparked immense interest in more serious space exploration attempts. Russia might be the first country to build a lunar space station, or it might not, but the mere fact that countries are fighting to be first means the space race is on.