Russia looks past ISS, and thinks about a future Russian space station

Russian space officials recently confirmed reports that the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos is looking to create a low-orbit space station that could be used for assistance in manned missions to the moon.

Along with future missions to the moon, the U.S., Russia, China, and Japan have plans for missions to Mars, but the proper infrastructure must first be created.  Roscosmos would like to use the low-orbit station to also launch missions to the Red Planet, but will take it one step at a time, space officials noted.

"We will soon propose to our government a project to construct a low-orbit complex, which could serve as a foundation for the implementation of the Lunar program and later on -- the Mars program," Roscosmos manned space program mission director Alexei Krasnov said.  "These are our intentions, but we are working hard to ensure that these plans get adequate financial and legislative support from the government."

If all goes according to plan, the first module of the Russian space station could be ready by 2020.

The multi-billion International Space Station -- with 15 participating nations -- is expected to be used until 2015 by NASA, with other nations, including Russia, seeking to use the station longer.  The ISS was first started in 1998 and expected to take just five years to complete, but as of July 2008, it was just 76 percent completed, Russia noted.

DailyTech earlier today posted an article mentioning how the ISS may have suffered irreversible damage after rockets necessary to move the ISS cut off instead of gradually shut down.  A full investigation has been launched into the incident, and it's possible years could be knocked off the ISS if damage is bad as some engineers think.

As NASA prepares to retire the current generation of space shuttles, more pressure will be added to the Russian space program to help ferry U.S. astronauts and supplies to the ISS.

Anatoly Perminov, the head of the Russian space agency, said he will be meeting with other ISS partners so a final decision can be made before the end of 2009.  All 15 nations must agree to extend the life of the ISS project until 2020, or it will end in 2015 as scheduled.

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