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article imageBack in the Space Race: Russian plan for manned space transport shuttles

By Paul Wallis     Dec 15, 2007 in Science
Russia’s efforts to make people know it’s back in business are developing a familiar air of competitive zeal. There are six projects on hand for a manned shuttle, two of which will proceed to consideration for development.
As you can see, this is quite an advance on their old Soyuz systems.
According to, the transports are six man spacecraft. The article gets enthused early, referring to “…regular flights to the International Space Station and even the Moon and Mars.
Of immediate commercial interest to just about anyone, the design contains some payload ideas which are pretty new, and likely to be popular with long-suffering ground clients:
“The projects also envisage innovations such as an orbital transfer vehicle and a cargo container with an increased payload capacity of 12 metric tons, as compared to the current two tons.”
That means a fleet of these things would dwarf existing cargo capacity. Given NASA’s history of having to dally among the budgetary daisy gatherers in Washington, that’s strong competition. One likely customer would be China, which while doing as much as it can to develop internal sources for its space program, has recently been doing a lot of diplomatic spadework with Russia.
“Mutual benefit” hardly begins to describe the possibilities. Russia can now deliver product to a good paying customer with its own ideas about space exploration. China has been planning a Moon landing and a space station, and has a real need for payload capacity.
The Moon isn’t that far away, either. Nor is it likely to be a purely sightseeing venture, when China lands on the Moon. Some people may not know this, but there has been talk for a long time about useful exotic minerals and compounds on the Moon, which would be worth a lot on Earth.
The Mars option for this Russian spacecraft can be considered an idea, rather than a fact, unless the Russians have achieved a lot in terms of overcoming the logistics. It’s not impossible, obviously, but there’s no public information which suggests they have that capability at the moment.
The question for America is “What’s the point of winning the Cold War, if you lose the Cold Peace?”
More about Russia, Space transport, Moon mars
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