Russia Ignores Fears, Reaches Out Towards Phobos (Mars)

Posted by on Sep 27, 2011 in Asteroids, Mars, Russia | 1 comment

Despite being inactive in the whole “deep space exploration” hobby (at least with humans), Russia is determined to once again reclaim their place among the stars by planning a trip towards the Martian moon of Phobos.

Although the purpose of the expedition is to collect soil samples from Phobos (not an easy task as the Japanese can tell you), Russia is apparently visiting the asteroid moon to potentially solve another mystery.

“Our country is about to return to planets and stars. We must learn how to fly to deep space, to Mars, after a 20-year break,” Khartov told the Interfax news agency.

 

He admitted the Phobos mission would be “very risky”, but said “the first step must be made”.

 

Russia had spent about 5 billion rubles (161 million U.S. dollars) preparaing for the three-year mission, which would include drilling Phobos’ surface and returning 200 grams of soil back to Earth in 2014, he said.

 

The mission would also collect bacteria samples for two Russian and one U.S. biological experiments. (Xinhua News Agency)

Thanks to a steady diet of cosmic (as well as solar) radiation, scientists will probably find microbes to be in short supply (although a find upon the surface would be extraordinary).

While drilling for life may yield zero results, understanding the soil upon Phobos is valuable as the lunar space rock might be humanities key towards conquering the red planet.

Russia will probably need the assistance of NASA and Japan to successfully extract soil from the lunar asteroid (especially when it comes to funding the mission), but despite the challenge it’s great to see the nation that introduced humanity to the stars regain their passion for the cosmos.

(Image Credit: European Space Agency, hat tip: Mars Daily)

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Russia Courting Mars After 2035?

Posted by on Apr 14, 2011 in Mars, Russia | 2 comments

Mars lovers, take note! It looks like a former superpower has set their sights upon the crimson world a couple of decades from now, as Russia plans on visiting the red planet within our life time.

Unfortunately for us however, there seems to be a small problem.

Russia will test a next-generation spacecraft, build a new cosmodrome and even consider a manned mission to Mars after 2035, the nation’s space chief said Wednesday. […]

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev vowed Tuesday that space will remain a key government priority, but skeptics said the nation has done virtually nothing to develop a successor to the 43-year-old Soyuz spaceship. (MSNBC / AP)

NASA currently has plans on visiting the red planet as well, although their timeline is in limbo due to recent budget cuts.

While Russia’s date of visitation is preferable, unless the nation can reinvent itself within the next decade, our hopes of visiting Mars will have to wait until we conquer the Moon.

Or let the Chinese pioneer the final frontier for us. 😉

Update: Corrected article above. Thanks!

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NASA And Russia Dream About Nuclear Space Ships

Posted by on Apr 7, 2011 in NASA, Russia | 0 comments

For those of you dreaming of reaching Mars, Mercury and other faraway destinations minus the chemical rockets, NASA and Russia are warming up to the idea of using nuclear spaceships in the not so distant future.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency Roscosmos and NASA will discuss the development of a nuclear-powered spaceship on April 15, agency director Anatoly Perminov said on Monday. […]

A nuclear engine design is to be completed by 2012, while the project’s implementation will require 17 billion rubles ($600 million). (RIA Novosti)

Although $600 million is chump change (at least as far as US federal spending goes), Russia is reportedly going to should most of the cost, with NASA filling in the rest.

As a bonus, NASA and Russia are open to partnering with other nuclear powers, which means we could see eastern nations (like China and Japan) as well as European countries contributing their scientific know how in order to ensure that the rocket is a success.

While chemical rockets are useful in helping us reach neighboring worlds like the Moon, we are going to need something a little bit faster if we want to see boot prints upon crimson soil.

(Hat Tip: Space Travel)

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Raising Radiation Resistant Planets Off World

Posted by on Mar 7, 2011 in Plants And Animals, Russia | 0 comments

As glorious as it would be to live upon another moon, planet or asteroid, the reality is that most of the 83 spheres that dance around our Sun are far too radioactive to raise plants upon without heavy shielding.

However a recent discovery by scientists near Chernobyl may help us not only raise radiation resistant crops off world, but also enable us to transport grain throughout the solar system.

Radioactivity lingering in the soil near the site of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident has not prevented life from creeping back at the Ukrainian site. Now researchers have discovered that oil-rich flax plants grown in the highly radioactive soil can apparently adapt and thrive with few problems.

The first generation survived with changes in barely 5 percent of the plant proteins, and researchers have also collected results from a second generation of flax grown in a radioactive plot of land near Chernobyl. But a mystery remains as to how the flax – a source of plant fiber and dietary oil – has adapted biochemically to the highly radioactive environment. Either way, researchers have been surprised to see that “the radioactive Chernobyl area is not a desert, but is full of life,” according to Martin Hajduch, senior scientist at the Slovak Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology. (Astrobiology Magazine)

If scientists can find a way to port the genes of these resistant plants into other crops (i.e. wheat, barely, or a few fruit trees), then humans will be able to raise food upon worlds like Mars without having to resort to expensive shielding.

Future settlers however will still have to import terrestrial fertilizer (or create their own) in order to raise gardens as the soil upon select worlds like the Moon as well as Mars is far too radioactive or toxic for terrestrial life.

Image: Soybean plant growing in radioactive soil, Credit: M. Hajduch

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Russia Going Nuclear (Space Rockets That Is)

Posted by on Dec 1, 2010 in Rockets, Russia | 0 comments

Once again “Mother Russia” is contemplating using nuclear rockets in its quest to conquer the final frontier.

Only this time instead of laying out wishful thoughts, the country seems to be settling upon not only a time frame, but also an estimated cost as well.

Russia’s Energia space corporation said on Tuesday it is planning to start working on standardized space modules with nuclear-powered propulsion systems next year.

Energia director Vitaly Lopota said the first launches with a capacity of 150 to 500 KW could be made some time in 2020. […]

The project will require an estimated 17 billion rubles (over $580 million) in funding. (RIA Novosti)

Going nuclear could help Russia not only land a man (or woman) upon the Moon, but also help them beat America to Mars (not to mention the Galilean moons of Jupiter as well).

Ironically NASA previously pondered nuclear rockets as well, but it’s doubtful the government agency could launch a nuclear rocket into space without encountering half a dozen lawsuits (and hundreds of protesters).

While nuclear rockets are a critical factor if humanity desires to expand beyond his cozy home world, we may need something faster if we want to conquer our star system within the next few centuries (and no, VASIMR engines are no longer a viable option).

(Image and Hat Tip via Space Travel)

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Russia To Challenge Bigelow For Space Station Supremacy

Posted by on Nov 12, 2010 in Russia, Space Industry, Space Stations | 0 comments

Bigelow Aerospace has more or less been the main contender on the commercial space station front. While other challengers like Galactic Suite have emerged, most have yet to build anything beyond fancy diagrams and CGI videos.

However that may change with the entrance of a new comer to the commercial space station industry, one who hails from “mother Russia.”

Two Russian companies have also recently announced their intentions to build, launch and operate a private space habitat named the Commercial Space Station, or CSS. […]

“The most exciting possibilities include flights from the station to the moon or Mars,” Sergey Kostenko, chief executive officer of Moscow-based Orbital Technologies, told SPACE.com.

Orbital Technologies said the station will have a crew of up to seven and will be serviced by Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and potentially other commercially available vehicles. The station would consist of one module about 10 feet (3 meters) in diameter powered by solar arrays, with a usable volume of about 700 cubic feet (20 cubic meters), Kostenko said. The plan is to launch it in 2015 or 2016. (Space.com)

Orbital Technologies is already receiving backing from the Russian Federal Space Agency, and unlike Bigelow Aerospace the former intends to heavily cater towards the tourism market instead of seeking out nations or companies as primary clients.

According to Space.com the Commercial Space Station (note: yes, I know the name is rather generic) will hold up to seven inhabitants, and the company is boasting that they already have clients lined up to board their celestial station beyond the sky.

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