Russia published reports in early May announcing a plan to build a permanent base on the moon. To stay on schedule with announced plans to colonize the moon, the nation that is currently bulldozing its way into Ukraine would need to get the first mission to the moon into space during 2016, two years from now. Considering the recent performance of their satellite program, Russia’s plans to build a base on the moon by 2040 are unrealistic.
When contemplating any construction project, from a kitchen remodeling project a plan to build a base on the moon, there is a triangle of considerations to think about. One side of the triangle is “cost.” The second side of the triangle is “speed.” The third side of the triangle is “quality.” Any consumer can only have one side of the triangle. So, if the job is done fast and the cost is cheap, it will not be of decent quality. If it is done well and fast, then it will not be cheap. Russia’s announcement of such an unrealistic timetable with the first launch for moon base prep in 2016 will only serve to embarrass them when the launch either does not take place or something goes tragically wrong. Recent evidence suggests the latter.
On May 15, 2014, Proton-M rocket lifted off from Baikonur, only to veer off trajectory around 100 miles up. The emergency guidance system shut off propulsion, leaving the rocket and its payload to fall back to Earth. There are conflicting reports on where the broken parts ended up. Some sources claim it broke up in the atmosphere, while others say parts impacted Siberia and China. While Russia’s overall record with sending rockets into space is excellent, the Proton series is one of the less reliable. Less than a year ago in July of 2013, a Proton rocket exploded during its journey into orbit, raining debris for miles. In 2012, another Proton failed in the upper atmosphere where it subsequently exploded, requiring clean up (the film Gravity showed the damage space junk can cause). 2011 saw a Soyuz 2 carrier crash. In 2010, a Proton crashed in the Pacific Ocean in 1999 saw two Proton rocket crashes; one in July and other in October.
There is no denying the consistency of the Russian space program. Unfortunately, most readers stateside only hear about the failures, not the successes. History remembers that they were the first to send a man into space, and it was a Proton rocket that contributed the first piece of the International Space Station in 1998. In 2013, Russia carried out 32 launches of the 82.
Bases on the moon are an inevitable development as mankind tests its technological mettle, but the switch away from fossil fuels is also inevitable, and it is a resource on which a significant amount of Russia’s economy is dependent. With recent failures, the cessation of teamwork with the U.S., difficulties imposed by foreign sanctions and the nation’s distractions in the Ukraine, it is unrealistic to expect that Russia will make its deadline for the planned moon base.
Opinion By Aliya Tyus-Barnwell