In the space industry, the eternal debate of physicists and lyricists transformed in the twenty-first century into a debate about what is more important for humanity — automatic or manned cosmonautics?
Supporters of "automation" appeal to the relatively low cost of creating and launching devices, which are of great benefit both for basic science and for solving applied problems on Earth. And their opponents, dreaming of a time when “our footprints will remain on the dusty paths of distant planets,” argue that without human activity, the exploration of outer space is impossible and impractical.
Where to fly?
In Russia, this discussion has a very serious financial background. It is not a secret for anyone that the budget of the national cosmonautics is significantly lower compared with not only the USA and Europe, but also with such a relatively young member of the space club like China. There are quite a few areas in which the industry is meant to work: in addition to participation in the International Space Station (ISS) program, this includes the global navigation satellite system GLONASS, communication satellites, Earth remote sensing, meteorological, scientific spacecraft, not to mention about military and dual use. So we have to divide this financial “trishkin caftan” in order not to offend anyone (although in the end, all the same, everyone is offended, since the allocated funds for the normal development of the industry are clearly not enough).
Recently, the head of the Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos), Vladimir Popovkin, stated that the proportion of manned cosmonautics in the budget of his department is very large (48%) and should be reduced to 30 percent. At the same time, he clarified that Russia will strictly comply with its obligations under the ISS program (after the cessation of the shuttle flights this year, only Russian Soyuz ships will deliver the crews to orbit). What then will we save? On scientific research or on promising developments? To answer this question, it is necessary to understand the development strategy of the domestic manned cosmonautics for the coming decades.
In the opinion of Nikolai Panichkin, First Deputy General Director of TsNIIMash (who acted as the mouthpiece of the Roskosmos head research institute), today counting space activity on 10 – 15 years is wrong: that you need to plan for at least 50 years. The Chinese are trying to look ahead for a hundred years. ”
So where do we fly in the near future - to the near-Earth orbit, the moon or Mars?
Seventh of the World
The patriarch of the space industry, the closest ally of the brilliant designer Sergey Korolev, academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Boris Chertok is convinced that the main task of world cosmonautics should be the joining of the Moon to the Earth. At the opening of the planetary congress of the participants in space flights, which took place in Moscow in early September, he said: "Just as we have Europe, Asia, South and North America, Australia, there must be another part of the world - the Moon."
Today, many countries, primarily the United States and China, have spoken about their ambitions regarding the Earth satellite. Nikolai Panichkin asserts: “When the question was resolved that the primary is the Moon or Mars, there were different opinions. Our institute believes that, still setting a distant goal - Mars, we must go through the moon. On it a lot of things have not yet been investigated. On the moon, you can create bases for conducting research in deep space, develop technologies for a flight to Mars. Therefore, planning to conduct a manned flight to this planet by the year 2045, we must establish outposts on the Moon by 2030. And in the period from 2030 to 2040, the year is to create the basis for large-scale exploration of the Moon with bases and research laboratories. ”
The first deputy general director of TsNIIMash believes that the implementation of lunar projects deserves attention the idea of creating a warehouse of fuel and fuel in near-earth orbit. On the ISS, this is unlikely to be implemented, since the station should stop working around 2020. A large-scale lunar expeditions begin after 2020 year. And another important aspect is highlighted by a Russian specialist: “When the institute offers this strategy, we relate it to the similar strategic plans of China and America. Of course, the moon race should be peaceful. In space, as you know, you can not test and deploy nuclear weapon. If in the near future, astronauts, astronauts and taikonaut will start settling on the Moon, they should build housing, scientific laboratories, enterprises for the extraction of valuable mineral resources, and not military bases there ”.
The exploration of the natural resources of the moon is a top priority, many scientists are convinced. Thus, according to Academician of RAS Eric Galimov, lunar mineral resources can save humanity from the global energy crisis. Tritium delivered to Earth from the nearest celestial body can be used for thermonuclear fusion. In addition, it is very tempting to turn the Moon into an outpost of deep-space research, a base for monitoring asteroid danger, monitoring the development of critical situations on our planet.
The most vivid (and controversial!) Idea is still the use of helium-3 on the Moon, which is not on Earth. Its main advantage, says Galimov, is that it is “environmentally friendly fuel.” Thus, the problem of the disposal of radioactive waste, which is a scourge of nuclear energy, disappears. According to the calculations of the scientist, the annual need of all mankind in helium-3 in the future will be 100 tons. In order to get them, it is necessary to open a three-meter layer of lunar soil of 75 area by 60 kilometers. And, paradoxically, the whole cycle - from production to delivery to Earth - will cost about ten times cheaper than the use of hydrocarbons (taking into account existing oil prices).
"Western experts propose to build helium reactors directly on the moon, which will further reduce the cost of producing clean energy," the academician said. The reserves of helium-3 on the moon are huge - about one million tons: enough for all of humanity for more than a thousand years.
But in order to begin the extraction of helium-3 on the Moon in 15 – 20 years, it is necessary to start geological exploration, mapping enriched and exposed to the Sun sites already now, to create pilot engineering installations, says Galimov. There are no complicated engineering tasks for the implementation of this program, the only question is investments. The benefit from them is obvious. One ton of helium-3 in energy equivalent is equal to 20 to millions of tons of oil, that is, at current prices worth more than 20 billion dollars. And the transportation cost of delivering one ton to Earth will be just 20 – 40 million dollars. According to the calculations of experts, to meet the needs of Russia, the power industry will need 20 tons of helium-3 per year, and for the entire Earth - ten times more. One ton of helium-3 is enough for the annual operation of a power plant with a capacity of 10 GW (10 mln kW). In order to extract one ton of helium-3 on the moon, it will be necessary to open and recycle a three-meter-deep section over an area of 10 – 15 square kilometers. According to experts, the cost of the project is 25 – 35 billion dollars.
The idea of using helium-3, however, has opponents. Their main argument is that before creating bases for the extraction of this element on the Moon and investing considerable funds in the project, it is necessary to establish thermonuclear fusion on Earth on an industrial scale, which has not been done so far.
Anyway, technically, the task of turning the Moon into a source of minerals can be solved in the coming years, Russian scientists are convinced. Thus, several leading domestic enterprises announced their readiness and concrete plans for the development of the Earth satellite.
The first to "colonize" the Moon should be automatic, believe in the Scientific Production Association named after S. A. Lavochkin - the leading Russian NGO in the field of space research using automatic devices. There, together with China, a project is being developed, which is intended to lay the foundation for the industrial exploration of the Moon.
According to the specialists of the enterprise, first of all it is necessary to explore the celestial body with the help of automatic means and create a lunar polygon, which will become in the future an element of a large habitable base. It should include a mobile complex of light and heavy moon rovers, telecommunications, astrophysical and landing complexes, large antenna, and some other elements. In addition, it is planned to form a grouping of spacecraft in the circumlunar orbit that carry out communications and remote sensing of the surface.
The project is planned to be implemented in three stages. First, with the help of light vehicles, select optimal regions on the moon for solving the most interesting scientific and applied problems, then deploy the orbital grouping. At the final stage, heavy moon rovers will go to the Earth satellite, which will determine the most interesting points for landing and soil acquisition.
The conceived, according to the project developers, will not require a very large investment, since for launching vehicles (except for heavy lunar rovers), light conversion rockets of the Rokot or Zenit type can be used.
The leading domestic company in manned cosmonautics, the Rocket and Space Corporation (RSC) Energia, named after S. P. Korolev, is ready to pick up the moon mastering relay. According to its specialists, an important role in creating the lunar base will be played by the ISS, which over time should turn into an international spaceport. Even if after the 2020 year, the countries-partners of the ISS program decide to no longer extend its operation, it is planned to build a platform for assembling future lunar bases in orbit on the basis of the Russian segment.
For the delivery of people and goods into orbit, a promising transport system is being developed, which will consist of a basic spacecraft and several of its modifications. The basic version is a manned transport ship of a new generation. It is intended for servicing orbital stations - sending crews and cargoes to them with subsequent return to Earth, as well as for use as a salvage ship.
The new manned system is radically different from the existing Soyuz ships, primarily in terms of new technologies. The prospective ship will be built according to the principle of the Lego constructor (that is, according to the modular principle). If necessary, flights to near-earth orbit will be used ship, allowing you to provide quick access to the station. If the tasks become more complicated and flights beyond the limits of near-earth space are required, the complex can be retrofitted with a household compartment with the possibility of returning to Earth.
In Energia, the ship’s modifications allow the expedition to the Moon to be completed, the AES is serviced and repaired, long-term autonomous flights are carried out for a month to conduct various studies and experiments, as well as delivery and return of an increased amount of cargo in an unmanned cargo returnable version. The system reduces the load on the crew, moreover, due to the parachute-landing system landing accuracy will be only two kilometers.
According to the plans laid down in the Federal Space Program before 2020, the first launch of a new manned spacecraft will take place in 2018 from the Vostochny cosmodrome, which is being built in the Amur Region.
If in Russia, at the state level, they nevertheless decide to develop minerals on the Moon, Energia will be able to provide a single reusable transport and cargo space complex serving the industrial development of a celestial body. Thus, the new ship (which has not yet received its official name), which will replace the Soyuz, together with the Parom inter-orbital tug developed by the RKK, will transport up to 10 tons of cargo, which will significantly reduce transport costs. As a result, Russia will also be able to provide commercial services for sending various, including large-sized cargoes into space.
“Ferry” is a spacecraft that will be launched by a launch vehicle into a low near-earth orbit (altitude about 200 km). Then, another booster will deliver the container with the cargo to a given point on it. The tug is docked with it and moves it to its destination, for example, to an orbital station. The container can be put into orbit by almost any domestic or foreign carrier.
However, with the current funding of the space industry, the creation of a lunar base and the industrial development of a satellite of the Earth are projects of a sufficiently distant future. Plans of flights to the Moon by tourists with the help of modified Soyuz ships seem much more realistic, according to Roscosmos. Together with the American company Space Adventures, the Russian ministry is developing a new tourist route in space, and plans to send earthlings to a sightseeing tour around the moon in five years.
Another well-known domestic company, the State Space Research and Production Center (GKNPT) named after MV Khrunichev, is also ready to contribute to the development of the celestial body. According to the experts of GKNPT, the lunar program should be preceded by the first, near-earth stage, which will be implemented using the experience of the ISS. After the 2020, it is planned to create an orbital manned assembly and operational complex for future expeditions to other planets, as well as, possibly, tourist complexes on the basis of the station.
The lunar program, according to scientists, should not repeat what has already been done in the last century. It is planned to create a permanent station in the orbit of the Earth’s satellite, and then a base on its surface. The deployment of the lunar station, consisting of two modules, will provide not only the expedition to it, but also the return of cargo to Earth. A manned spacecraft with a crew of at least four people, capable of autonomous flight up to 14 days, as well as a module of the lunar orbital station and a landing ship will be required. The next step should be a permanent base on the surface of the moon with all the infrastructure, which in the first stage provides four people, and further increases the number of base modules and equips it with a power plant, a lock module and other necessary facilities.
Space Club Programs
Within the framework of the concept of development of the Russian manned cosmonautics up to 2040, a program for the exploration of the Moon (2025 – 2030) and flights to Mars (2035 – 2040) are provided. The modern task of the development of the Earth’s satellite is the creation of a lunar base, and such a large-scale program should be carried out within the framework of international cooperation, we are convinced in Roscosmos.
As part of the first phase of the moon exploration program in 2013 – 2014, lunar satellites Luna-Glob and Luna-Resource are scheduled to launch, said Viktor Hartov, head of the Lavochkin NGO. The mission of the Luna-Glob mission is to fly around the moon, prepare and select sites for the Lunokhod, for other engineering and scientific complexes that will become the basis for the future base, as well as study the core of the Moon using special drilling devices — penetrators with Japan, since Japanese experts have long been successfully developing penetrators).
The second stage involves the delivery to the moon of a scientific laboratory - a lunar rover for a wide range of scientific and technological experiments. At this stage, invited to cooperate India, China, European countries. It is planned that within the framework of the Chandrayan-2 mission, the Indians will provide a rocket and a flight module, as well as launch from their own launch site. Russia will prepare a landing module, a lunar rover weighing 400 kilograms and scientific equipment.
According to Viktor Hartov, in the future (after 2015 of the year), the Russian project Luna-Resource / 2 is planned to create a unified landing platform, a long-range lunar rover, a take-off rocket from the moon, means of loading and storing lunar soil samples delivered to Earth, as well as the implementation of high-precision landing on the lighthouse, located on the moon. In this case, it is intended to carry out the delivery of samples of lunar soil collected with the help of a lunar rover in previously selected areas of scientific interest.
The project "Luna Resource / 2" will be the third stage of the domestic lunar program. As part of it, two expeditions are planned to be carried out: the first will deliver a heavy research lunar rover to the surface of the Moon to conduct contact research and take samples of lunar soil, and the second - a take-off rocket to return soil samples to Earth.
Creating an automatic base will allow solving a number of tasks in the interests of the manned lunar program, which stipulates that after the 2026 of the year, people will fly to the Moon. From 2027 to 2032 on the Moon, it is planned to create a special research center "Lunny Polygon", calculated already on the work of astronauts.
In January, 2004, US President George W. Bush announced the goal of NASA to “return” to 2020 on the Moon. The Americans planned to retire obsolete shuttles to release funds by 2010. By 2015, NASA should have deployed a new Constellation program ("Constellation") in the form of an upgraded and expanded Apollo program. The main components of the project are the Ares-1 launch vehicle, the development of a solid-fuel shuttle accelerator, the Orion manned spacecraft with a crew of up to five to six people, the Altair module, intended for landing on the lunar surface and taking off from it, stage to move away from the Earth (POPs), as well as the heavy carrier “Ares-5”, intended for launching POPs into the near-earth orbit together with “Altair”. The goal of the Constellation program was to fly to the Moon (not earlier than 2012), and then land on its surface (not earlier than 2020).
However, the new US administration, led by Barack Obama, this year proclaimed the termination of the Constellation program, finding it too expensive. Having curtailed the lunar program, the Obama administration simultaneously made a decision to extend funding for operating the American segment of the ISS to 2020. At the same time, the US authorities decided to encourage private companies to build and operate manned spacecraft.
The Chinese program for the study of the moon is conditionally divided into three parts. During the first year in 2007, the Chang'e-1 device was successfully launched. He worked in the moon's orbit 16 months. As a result, a high-resolution three-dimensional map of its surface was compiled. In 2010, a second research vehicle was sent to the Moon to photograph the areas, in one of which Chang'e-3 would have to land.
The second stage of the study program of the natural satellite of the Earth involves the delivery of a self-propelled vehicle to its surface. Within the framework of the third phase (2017), another installation will go to the Moon, the main task of which will be to deliver samples of lunar rocks to Earth. China intends to send its astronauts to the Earth satellite after 2020. In the future, it is planned to create a habitable station there.
India has a national lunar program. In November, 2008, this country launched the artificial satellite of the moon "Chandrayaan-1". An automatic probe was sent from it to the surface of the natural satellite of the Earth, which conducted a study of the composition of the atmosphere and took samples of the soil.
In cooperation with Roscosmos, India is developing the Chandrayaan-2 project, which involves sending a spacecraft to the Moon using an Indian GSLV launch vehicle consisting of two lunar modules, the orbital and the landing one.
The launch of the first manned spacecraft is scheduled for 2016 year. On board, as the head of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Coomaraswamy Radhakrishnan, has informed, two astronauts will travel to space, which will spend seven days in near-earth orbit. Thus, India will become the fourth state (after Russia, the USA and China), carrying out manned space flights.
Japan is developing its lunar program. So, in 1990, the first probe was sent to the Moon, and in 2007, an artificial satellite Kaguya was launched with 15 scientific instruments and two satellite apparatuses, Okinawa and Ouna, on board (he worked in the Moon orbit for more than a year ). In 2012 – 2013, it was planned to launch the next automatic vehicle, by 2020, the manned flight to the Moon, and by the 2025 – 2030 years - the creation of a habitable lunar base. However, last year, Japan decided to abandon the manned lunar program due to the budget deficit.