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Russia celebrates 55 years of human spaceflight, envisions ambitious future space missions

Yuri Gagarin awaits his date in history Roscosmos photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: Energiya

Russia celebrated its annual Cosmonautics Day on Tuesday, April 12. The event took on special significance this year as it marked the 55th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic trip into “silent sea”. The celebrations provided Russian officials with a venue to lay out Russia’s future long-term space exploration plans directed toward taking the lead in human space exploration efforts.

Fifty-five years ago, the Vostok 1 spacecraft was launched from Baikonur’s Pad 1/5. On board was the Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. It was the dawn of the Space Age and Gagarin rode his Vostok-K 8K72K rocket’s fire to orbit – lighting the way to the future.

The Huntsville Times front page denoting Yuri Gagarin's historic mission. The Huntsville Time image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Image Credit: Huntsville Times

The current head of the Roscosmos State Corporation, Igor Komarov, has hinted at plans to set up bases on the Moon and on Mars in the next 50 years.

“I think we are looking at a lot of progress to be made in the next 55 years, and a lot of exciting developments. I think we will see a mission to Mars, and I think that Russia together with its partners in other countries will set up an orbital station on Mars. I’m sure there will also be a lot of research activity on the Moon, including the creation of a lunar base and a lunar orbital station. By the way, we are already discussing such plans with our partners in NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA),” Komarov told RT TV news channel.

This statement is in accordance with the Federal Space Program for 2016–2025, which envisages the laying of the groundwork required for full-scale lunar exploration after 2025 and a crewed lunar landing by 2030.

Far from being a unilateral initiative, Komarov underlined the importance of international cooperation to achieve these ambitious goals. He noted that Russia and the U.S. need to maintain friendly relations regarding the work being conducted at the International Space Station despite the current icy political relations between the two one-time orbital rivals.

“Space is a realm we can only explore through joint effort,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin underscored this philosophy, highlighting the importance of joint international efforts regarding space issues. On Cosmonautics Day, he participated in a video linkup with the International Space Station (ISS) from the newly-built Vostochny Space Launch Center.

“Let me wish success to everybody working in orbit right now. I would like to note that we are pleased to see and we attach great importance to the fact that, despite any difficulties that we face back here on Earth, people in space work shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, and help each other tackle the most important challenges facing not only their own countries but the entire humankind. This is a very important aspect of our cooperation with the United States and other countries as well,” Putin said.

Russia is currently scheduled to participate in the ISS program through 2024. After this date, the nation has made statements that the country will start work on its own station based on Russian modules.

Besides developing its own on-orbit lab, Russia also disclosed plans to construct a next-generation reusable spacecraft, called Federation, to replace the Soyuz family of crew-rated spacecraft. The first unmanned launch of this craft is scheduled for 2021, while its first crewed mission to the ISS is planned for 2023. The project, overseen by Russian spacecraft manufacturer RKK Energia, is currently in its early stages.

“The stage of developing the technical documentation is currently underway and should be finished in June. After this, one more contract will need to be signed, which will allow for the work to begin on preparing the ships equipment and programming,” said Yevgeny Mikrin of RKK Energia.

Video courtesy of NASA


Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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