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WASHINGTON, April 11. /TASS/. The next major step in space exploration by humanity should be the creation of a base on the Moon, and only after that it would be expedient to start the preparation of the first manned flight to Mars, say reputed experts of the American nonprofit organization Space Foundation that is engaged in popularization of space research. As it turned out, the approach to these issues worked out by the Russian Space Corporation Roscosmos is closer to them than NASA’s.
"Actually, there is still quite a debate about whether going to Mars should be the priority," Space Foundations Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham told TASS in an interview ahead of Cosmonautics Day that is marked in Russia on April 12. "Or should we focus on a permanent human base on the Moon?" "My own view is that both are necessary, first the Moon base and then on to Mars with the experience we gain," the US expert said.
"The reason is simple," Pulham said. "If we want to assure the survival of the human species, we must become an interplanetary species. Otherwise, we are just one big asteroid strike from extinction; the Earth has been hit by asteroids and comets many times before, and it would be the height of ignorance and arrogance to think it won’t happen again. So this task has importance for all space faring nations, and we should all cooperate to implement it."
Leroy Chiao, former astronaut of the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Space Foundation Special Advisor, agrees with him. He has a record of four space flights and in 2004-2005 he worked together with Russian cosmonauts during a long-term expedition to the International Space Station (ISS). "A Moon base is a logical next step, to develop and test hardware and operations, to push towards Mars. Space exploration and politics are inextricably intertwined, so the direction needs to make sense for all partner nations," Chiao told TASS.
Head of Roscosmos Igor Komarov said at a Russian government meeting in March that the Federal Space Program for 2016-2025 "envisages laying the necessary groundwork for full-scale Moon exploration after 2025 and manned landing on the Moon by 2030." Last week, Roscosmos Executive Director for Manned Space Programs Sergei Krikalev told reporters that landing on the Moon was planned by 2030 and in the following period until 2035 the assembly of the lunar base, lunar station would be carried out.
NASA has different plans - it intends to concentrate efforts in the coming years on preparing a manned flight to Mars. NASA hopes to send astronauts to Mars in the middle of 2030s on a new Orion spacecraft with the SLS heavy launch vehicle. However, automated spacecraft will be launched first for the exploration of Mars and its atmosphere. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said his agency was ready to cooperate with other countries, including Russia, in this project.