While some are interested in colonizing Mars by sending astronauts there to reside permanently, Russia seems to be instead be taking an interest in utilizing the Moon, a much closer target, by 2031.
Russian rocket firm Energia is responsible for setting the goal, as the words came out of the CEO’s mouth. If that sounds similar, it’s because it was the CEO of SpaceX, a rocket firm based out of the United States, who originally wanted to send U.S. missions to Mars, even before NASA's interest. Both goals were set without approval from each of the nations’ space agencies.
That aside, the Moon-colonizing initiative would not only give Russia the potential to set up a colony on the Moon’s surface, but perhaps also to create yet another orbiting space lab that could orbit the Moon itself instead of the Earth. 4-12 cosmonauts could live on the Moon, in the permanent settlement, at one given time.
Pieces of the settlement would be sent to the Moon at individual times, where it could then be assembled similarly to the way the International Space Station was built.
Russia isn’t being selfish about it either; they’re inviting both the ESA and NASA to help collaborate and be a part of the fun. This would allow all of the major space agencies to make spacecraft that would be compatible with the docking stations that would be used.
"A take-off and landing module [for a flight to the Moon] is a completely new development, which I believe we’ll be making together with our European and American partners. We’re inviting all the countries for participation and the development of new samples of space hardware and the implementation of the lunar program," Energiya CEO Vladimir Solntsev said.
Unmanned flights could begin as early as 2026, if approved. These flights would serve as testing grounds for an upcoming heavy lift rocket that is being designed right now and would have the potential to send larger loads of equipment and cosmonauts into space.
So far, NASA is the only space agency to be successful in landing mankind on the Moon, and they’ve done it more than once. A grand total of 12 astronauts have walked the Moon to this day, and all happened between 1969-1972, but the new goal by Russia, if successful, could change that within just a few more decades.
The Moon base would be used for a variety of scientific experiments, space mining, and in some cases, perhaps even military affairs. That’s not to say the Moon base would start or fuel wars between nations, but it could help with technology advancements, perhaps even in strengthening our defense against major impacts from asteroids.
Little is known about the mission at this point in time, as things remain very preliminary, however Russia also appears to be interested in having a spacecraft orbit the Moon by as soon as 2029; this spacecraft would be called Federation.
It should be interesting to see if Russia would be successful in taking on this task, or if Elon Musk’s Martian goals will happen first.