FRYAZINO (Moscow Region), October 28 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Federal Space Agency Roscosmos has developed a design for a piloted spacecraft powered by a nuclear engine, the head of the agency said on Wednesday.
"The project is aimed at implementing large-scale space exploration programs," Anatoly Perminov said at a meeting of the commission on the modernization of the Russian economy.
He added that the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial for Russia if the country wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars.
Perminov said that the draft design of the spacecraft would be finalized by 2012, and the financing for further development in the next nine years would require an investment of at least 17 billion rubles (over $580 million).
Anatoly Koroteyev, president of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and head of the Keldysh research center, earlier said that the key scientific and technical problem in sending manned missions to the Moon and Mars was the development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency.
The current capabilities of the Russian space industry are clearly insufficient either to set up a permanent base on the Moon or accomplish an independent manned mission to Mars, he said.