MOSCOW, April 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is preparing to launch an ambitious lunar project which could provide access to alternative energy resources, a company involved in the project said Tuesday.
"The lunar project is aimed at recovering resources such as helium-3," said Nikolai Sevastyanov, the president and chief designer of leading Russian spacecraft-maker Energia. This isotope could be used to produce fuel when the earth's own energy resources become depleted.
The program could also be used to transfer environmentally hazardous, energy-consuming production facilities to the moon, the official said.
It will take an estimated $2 billion to implement the first leg of the project and another $40 billion to implement the second, Sevastyanov said.
The initial phase, to be implemented in 2010-2015, will involve Soyuz spaceships, Soyuz-FG and Proton launch vehicles, and DM-type boosters.
"The Russian segment of the International Space Station could be used as an assembly site for an inter-orbital space complex bound for the moon," he said.
The next stage, set for 2015-2020, will focus on the construction of a transportation system for ferrying people and supplies to and from the moon.
"It will involve manned spacecraft based on [Russia's next-generation reusable shuttle] Clipper and inter-orbital trawlers propelled by liquid-fuel jet engines. Trawlers using electric propulsion will be employed to transport heavy payloads," said Sevastyanov.