Russia is discussing plans to build a permanent, manned base on the Moon, the head of its national space agency said Thursday.
"We don't want man to just step on the Moon," Ria Novosti news agency quoted Roscosmos director Vladimir Popovkin as saying.
Roscosmos is developing its plans in partnership with NASA and the European Space Agency, Popovkin said.
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Recently, evidence that there may be water at the lunar poles has spurred scientific interest in closer exploration of the Moon's surface. A Moon base is one of two research options being considered, Popovkin said, the other being to launch a space station into lunar orbit.
Last April, Russia announced it wanted to build a base on the Moon in order to stage manned missions to Mars, the Daily Telegraph reported. Preliminary studies said the outpost could be ready "close to 2030."
The idea of building on the Moon dates back to the late 1950s, according to Ria Novosti. Soviet and American scientists studied the possibility during the Cold-War space race – though then, of course, they would have been working separately.
There have been signs in recent weeks that the rivalry between Russia and the US has not entirely died out: after Russia's Phobos-Grunt mission to Mars failed soon after launch, unnamed sources in the Russian space industry told the media that US radar could have – accidentally – caused the probe to malfunction.
However, Russian scientists later said that theory was "exotic," and dismissed it as an excuse to cover up problems with the spacecraft itself.
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