Russia will launch research into nuclear engines for spaceships from 2010, the head of the Federal Space Agency said on Sunday.
"Nuclear engines for spaceships are a very promising area. Such engines should be created to make flights to Mars and other planets, for example," Anatoly Perminov said.
Perminov earlier said 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 spacecraft powered by a nuclear engine 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.
BAIKONUR SPACE CENTER (Kazakhstan), December 20 (RIA Novosti)