The Russian newspaper Izvestia claims to have discovered a leaked Russian document in which the Russian government plans to colonize the moon by 2030. The leaked document is allegedly the product of collaboration between Russian space research institutes such as the Roscosmos Federal Space Agency and Moscow State University, and begins by predicting a geopolitical struggle for lunar resources in the 21st century. The document, titled “The Concept of Russian Lunar Program,” outlines a multi-part strategy which would see the Russians establishing a permanent base somewhere on the surface of the moon by 2030.
This alleged plan, which would see Russia landing unmanned probes on the surface of the moon within the current decade, comes in the context of increased Russian assertiveness in Eastern Europe, specifically in regions such as Crimea, and may be seen as an attempt by the Russians to wipe out the humiliation of the U.S. lunar landing on July 20, 1969. NASA, acting under the influence of President Obama, has renounced any plans to send another manned mission to the moon, making another ‘space race’ unlikely, but the possible impact of a Russian lunar colony extends far beyond mere propaganda value.
The alleged Russian plan to colonize the moon is broken up into a series of projects to be undertaken over the next 16 years, the first three of which will attempt to determine the chemical composition of the moon’s surface in order to determine a location for the eventual moon colony. The main purpose of said colony would likely be resource extraction, as previous lunar expeditions have discovered significant deposits of aluminium, iron and titanium on the moon, all of which could be of tremendous economic significance for Russia.
Although it remains to be seen whether such an extraction is financially viable, as Ria Novosita reports, the initial stage of the plan alone would cost a staggering 800 million dollars, but a colony on the moon would also provide the Russians with a launching pad for future explorations into the farther reaches of the solar system. These explorations could prove to be massively beneficial to the Russian economy by providing an injection of rare raw materials. The Russian government also hopes to partially defray the costs of the expedition by attracting private investors to the project, an attempt which would likely be aimed mainly at Russian oligarchs due to the political tensions caused by the ongoing Ukraine Crisis.
Russia allegedly plans to send four automated rovers, the Luna-25 through the Luna-28, to the moon by 2025, and these explorations, if they prove successful, are likely to arouse uneasiness in Western Europe and North America, as they represent possible precursors to the spectre of extra-terrestrial colonialism reigniting a ‘Cold War.’ Russia, it seems, is not content with merely increasing its influence in Eastern Europe, and is looking to outpace the United States in space technology. It will be interesting to see the American reaction to this challenge by Russia, as President Obama, and his successors, will likely come under pressure to reignite NASA’s moon missions should the Russian Federation seem to be creating a technological or strategic gap. The question of how the United States will respond to a Russian colony on the surface of the moon will likely be an important one in the coming years.
By: Nicholas Grabe