Russia commits to International Space Station until 2024, then plans Moon missions

Russia said it is committed to operations on the International Space Station until 2024, after which it plans to do robotic and manned missions to the Moon on its own. The US is the only other country that has pledged commitment to ISS beyond 2020.

Although Canada, Japan and Europe have expressed interest, none of these countries or regions has given a firm undertaking.

ISS is planned for shutdown in 2024 anyway, any commitment beyond that time would be either to construct a new one or build on the current one.

The Russian Federal Space Agency (Russian: Федеральное космическое агентство России Federal’noye kosmicheskoye agentstvo Rossii), commonly called Roscosmos, set out its plans for future activities on February 24th.

International Space Station

The International Space Station’s first component was launched in 1998. It can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth. (Image: NASA)

The commitment to ISS until 2024 surprised some people, because Roscosmos had given indications recently that it might not wish to carry on participating beyond 2020.

Roscosmos’ website informed that up to 2030, robotic missions to the Moon would dominate, after which cosmonaut (astronaut) missions could take over.

ISS not affected by political standoffs so far

As with sports, ISS so far has not been affected by the Russian versus the US/EU standoff regarding Ukraine.

Russian news agency TASS wrote today:

“Last year, US suspended cooperation with Russia in the space sphere because of the situation around Ukraine. The only exception was the ISS project, which American specialists consider to be a unique platform for scientific experiments and observations.”

Since the US space shuttles were retired in 2011, the only way US astronauts have been able to get to and from ISS has been by buying seats in the Russian Soyuz capsules, at about $70 million per astronaut.

According to Roscosmos, it will use elements of the ISS to form the basis of its own Russian space station after 2024. It will remove three modules to “create a promising Russian space station to meet the challenges of providing secure access to the Russian space,” it said.

The Guardian quoted Martin Barstow, president of the Royal Astronomical Society, who said:

“The International Space Station was a focus for everybody and although its life is going to be extended, it’s still going to be limited. The collaborative part of that project may go, and it would be bad if it were lost.”

“The way to avoid fighting is to work together on international significant projects. In the next ten years things could change quite dramatically.”

When Russia does manage to land cosmonauts on the Moon, it will likely be doing so in a possible space race with not just the US, but China as well. China already has its Jade Rabbit rover on the Moon and has expressed interest in eventually following up with human missions.

Video – The International Space Station