MOSCOW, December 12. /TASS/. A future international space station that may be put in orbit around the Moon will be one-fourth or even one-fifth the size of the International Space Station currently orbiting the Earth, the chief of the Manned Programs Center at the space industry’s main research institute, cosmonaut Oleg Kotov, has told TASS.
"The discussion over plans for creating an international station in the Moon’s orbit is in the initial phase. Pre-project talks are being held by the ISS partner countries at the working group level. The purpose of the station will be to create a near-Moon infrastructure for subsequent exploration and development of the Moon. Currently the station is seen as a small visitable orbiter consisting of three or four modules in the Moon’s polar highly elliptical orbit," he said.
The International Space Station consists of fifteen modules, five of which are Russian.
Kotov said a future lunar space station will help polish technologies crucial to exploring the Moon and deep space. In particular, it may explore the Moon’s surface using rovers and landing probes.
"The lunar station is regarded as an international project and this is very good, because it would be very wrong to neglect the experience of international cooperation in designing and operating the ISS accumulated over years when the ISS life cycle is over.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said that on presidential instructions work had begun on technical documents for creating an extra-heavy space rocket that will make it possible to start creating a visitable or inhabitable research laboratory in the Moon’s orbit.
In the spring of 2016 it was announced that Russia’s Energia and the United States’ Boeing corporation were working jointly on two concepts of a lunar station - two smaller livable modules or one larger module. The current proposal is NASA’s future SLS super-heavy space rocket would be used to take lunar station components and crew to an orbit around the Moon. If the multi-modular project is selected, the modules will be launched in combination with a US spacecraft Orion (also being developed by NASA).
In either case the station will have a crew of four. The duration of space missions will last 30 to 360 days. Missions to the Moon will be dispatched once a year.
Energia’s proposal is to start creating an orbital lunar platform at the end of 2022 and to send the first crew to it in the first half of 2025. Earlier reports said Russia hoped to see its first cosmonaut on the Moon in 2031.